Feb 5, 2021

AWS is building its next hyperscale data centre in Didcot

Data Centres
Harry Menear
4 min
Courtesy of Willow Developments LLC
The decommissioned Didcot A Power Station will be home to a new hyperscale facility operated by Amazon Web Services...

Didcot A power station has a new owner. On Thursday, Data Centre Dynamics broke the story that a previously unknown company is in the process of gaining approval to build two hyperscale data centres on the site of the decommissioned coal power plant just south of Oxford. 

The Didcot A power station was built in the 1970s, and its 655ft chimney was once one of the tallest structures in the UK, prior to its demolition last year. The station officially closed in March of 2013, with its cooling towers being demolished in two stages, the first of which being in 2014, and the second in 2019. 

Six workers were killed during the demolition process, which led to the Thames Valley Police bringing manslaughter and gross negligence charges against those involved. 

A New Beginning?

It is now known that the mysterious data centre operator - operating through a holding company called Willow Developments LLC - is Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS, acting through Willow Developments, initially proposed the project back in 2019. Planning permission documents include two 25 metre-tall data centre buildings, with a total floorspace of 54,760 square metres. 


Planning permission maps for the two new buildings - Courtesy of Willow Developments LLC

The first round of plans also included 52 diesel generators with a total capacity of 950,000 litres of diesel fuel to provide backup electricity to the centres in the case of an outage. Due to constraints placed by COVID-19, the proposal has been revised, lowering the facilities by one storey and reducing the number of generators to 34. 

AWS has been thoroughly cagey about its involvement in the project so far - a strategy adopted by most hyperscalers in order to avoid controversy as it pursues tax breaks and planning permissions. 

A site which only mentions Willow Developments has gone up, touting the benefits of data centres and their supposed positive impact on the Didcot economy, claiming that, “The development will assist in meeting the demand for cloud computing. It will also make a strong contribution to the UK’s fast-paced and growing digital economy.

“Locally, it will make a valuable addition to the Science Vale and its economy by assisting Science Vale and the Didcot Growth Accelerator Enterprise Zone in meeting their objectives and goals.” 

The site’s section on renewable energy, however, notes that the data centre operator behind the project “has a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement. As part of this commitment, the operator is investing and innovating in efficiency in every aspect of their operations and is on a path to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.” 

The site continues to note that, “The operator sees major investments in renewable energy as a critical step toward addressing its carbon footprint globally, and its newest renewable energy project in Europe will be the largest wind corporate power purchase agreement in the UK. Located in Scotland, once complete, the new wind project will provide 50MW of new renewable capacity with expected generation of 168,000MWh of clean energy annually, enough to power 46,000 UK homes."

These commitments line up perfectly with AWS’ own sustainability goals, and 2019 wind farm project in Scotland, pointing firmly towards them being the hyperscaler looking to move into the area. 

AWS keeps the locations of its sprawling network of hyperscale data centres a closely guarded secret. In 2018, Julian Assange’s organisation, WikiLeaks published a list of AWS facilities, including 38 in Virginia, eight in San Francisco, eight in Seattle, seven in Oregon, seven in Dublin, four in Germany and three in Luxembourg. 

It’s reasonable to assume that those figures have increased considerably in the past two years, given the global growth in hyperscale projects worldwide

Recent data published by Synergy Research found that, at the end of 2020, there were 597 hyperscale data centres active around the world, and that AWS, along with Google and Microsoft, accounted for more than half of the global total. 

“In addition to almost 600 operational data centres, we have visibility of a further 219 that are at various stages of planning or building, which is good news indeed for data centre hardware vendors and wholesale data centre operators,” commented John Dinsdale, Chief Analyst at Synergy Research Group. 

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Jun 22, 2021

NKG1 opens BDx Nanjing data centre campus

2 min
Big Data Exchange (BDx) launches the first phase of its Nanjing data centre campus in China with the opening of NKG1.

Big Data Exchange (BDx), a pan-Asian data centre company has launched its Nanjing data centre campus in China with the opening of its first facility, NKG1. The company said they “celebrated” the launch of the campus, located in the Yangtze River Delta, one of the nation's richest regions and its largest import and export base. 

Following its certificate of completion from the Urban and Rural Construction Bureau of Jiangning District in Nanjing City, the NKG1 campus is “now serving customers”. Construction on the Nanjing campus began in February last year. 

"We worked through the challenges of completing a major construction project during the peak of the pandemic because customers were anticipating this launch to support an unprecedented surge of growth and capacity requirements”, said Bill Gao, EVP & Chief Executive Officer of BDx Greater China. 

"The launch of NKG1 enables BDx to have new world-class data centre infrastructure in China. It also lays a solid foundation for BDx to provide OTTs, financial services institutions, and Fortune 500 MNC customers with high reliability, high redundancy, and low latency solutions”, he added. 

What does the NKG1 data centre include?

According to BDx, the NKG1 facility is the first data centre in the city to earn the Uptime Institute Tier III Certification of Design Documents and offers 4MW of IT power for colocation. NKG1 is powered by two separate 10-kilovolt feeders from two substations that aim to provide the NKG campus with 60MVA of total power sanctioned from the grid.

During COVID-19, BDx says that its design and construction team focused on safety to ensure that the project was completed safely and without incident. This enabled the company to add critical capacity to this region and respond to the accelerated shift to digital environments that caused a surge in demand for data center services. “Research shows that demand hasn't dropped as the economy reopens”, BDx said. 

The launch of NKG2

Due to rising demand in China’s data centre market, BDx plans to launch the second phase of its Nanjing campus, NKG2, by the end of this year. “NKG2 is designed to be minimally manned and almost lights-out — a reigning philosophy across BDx's data center cluster. In addition, its highly automated features make for a more sustainable data center environment”, the company said.



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