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Amazon to transform Italian power stations to data centres

Fri 2 Dec 2016

Amazon is in talks with the government-controlled Italian energy provider Enel to purchase defunct power plants in Italy in order to convert them into data centers.

A spokesperson for Enel said that talks were under way, and that two separate deals were in the final stages. The source also noted that Amazon was planning to spend up to €1 billion ($1.06B USD) on the project.

Energy plants are attractive for repurposing as data centers because they generally have a large footprint and excellent connections to the existing power grid. Also, in many cases, repurposing presents a greener solution than a tear-down or fresh build of a new facility.

Google launched a similar project in 2015, when it purchased a defunct fossil fuel-based energy plant in Widows Creek, Alabama, for conversion to a data center. A blog post at the time noted that “Data centers need a lot of infrastructure to run 24/7, and there’s a lot of potential in redeveloping large industrial sites like former coal power plants. Decades of investment shouldn’t go to waste just because a site has closed; we can repurpose existing electric and other infrastructure to make sure our data centers are reliably serving our users around the world.”

Speaking before Italian Parliament recently, Paola De Micheli, undersecretary for the Industry Ministry, said that Amazon was looking to convert three Enel sites to data centers, and noted that Enel could help Amazon improve their power consumption efficiency.

Enel is shutting down 23 energy plants due to falling demand and a shift in focus to green, renewable energy sources. The sites of interest to Amazon are in the northern part of the country, including Trino and La Casella.

The La Casella site is in the Piacenza region, home to Amazon’s main Italian distribution center.

The news of Amazon’s intent to partner with Enel to convert power plants to data centers broke last July, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos met with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss Amazon’s plans to invest in Italy. The company’s purchase of defunct energy plants promotes Renzi’s promise to increase foreign investments in Italy as well as providing income to help with the Prime Minister’s plan to have Enel lay a new fiber optic network to improve broadband connectivity throughout the country.


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