Quebec, the new eldorado of data centers?

With its cheap and renewable electricity, Quebec (Canada) dreams of becoming a new El Dorado for technological giants, who are increasingly deploying their data centers there in a booming but very energy-intensive sector. .

Fifty centers are currently installed in the Canadian province, against 39 at the start of 2019, some of which are owned by champions of this sector which has become strategic for the digital economy such as Amazon (leader of the “cloud”, remote computing, with its subsidiary Amazon Web Services), Microsoft, Google or IBM.

“We have seen new players arrive, and very big players”

Still far behind Virginia in the United States and its “Data Center Alley” which claims 70% of global Internet traffic, or Ile-de-France, which has more than 120 data centers, Quebec wants to become an option. In recent years, “we have seen new players arrive, and very big players,” says Stéphane Paquet, CEO of Montreal International, the organization responsible for the economic promotion of the metropolis.

The American giant Google, already present in the province, has planned to build its first data center, an investment of 735 million Canadian dollars (489 million euros) on a plot of sixty hectares. Same expansion strategy for Microsoft, which bought land in the agglomeration of Quebec City.

A renewable energy source

One of the pioneers, the French host OVHcloud, installed one of its 32 data centers in Quebec in 2012. “The objective was to establish ourselves on the American continent and the natural gateway was Quebec, where there was also a source of renewable energy. This is not the only reason, but it played a big part in the decision ”, explains Estelle Azemard, vice-president of OVHcloud for the Americas.

The company, which is one of the world’s leaders in cloud and web hosting, has developed a technology to cool the heat given off by machines with water, which allows it to do without air conditioning. “The environment is really at the heart of our business system,” assures Estelle Azemard.

Low cost electricity

A sizeable financial argument, Quebec prides itself on offering low-cost electricity that defies American and European competition with a price of around 5 cents (in Canadian dollars) per kilowatt hour. “Our rates are among the most advantageous in the world,” boasts Cendrix Bouchard, spokesperson for Hydro-Quebec, which holds the public monopoly for the production and distribution of electricity.

“We come here because it is not expensive but above all because it is an energy that is more than 99% renewable”, adds Stéphane Paquet, CEO of Montreal International. The long and cold winters of the French-speaking province also make it possible to limit the expenses necessary for the cooling of the machines.

Gluttonous when it comes to energy, data centers, whose servers constantly need to be cooled to avoid overheating, emit nearly “4% of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than civilian air transport. “, According to a report from the French think tank The Shift Project published in 2019.

Source: 20Minutes – Une by

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