Share story

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook and Google are pushing to go green by going Arctic to tap the environmental benefits of setting up shop in that part of the world.

Facebook this week switched on its first data center outside the U.S., located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, which it says could be the most environmentally friendly facility of its kind.

The social network said its facility in Lulea, Sweden is “now serving live user traffic from around the world.”

The announcement follows last week’s news from Google that it has agreed to buy the entire output from a wind farm in Sweden for 10 years to power its data center in Finland.

The energy source is not only “100 percent renewable,” Facebook said, it is “also so reliable that we have been able to reduce the number of backup generators required at the site by more than 70 percent.”

Being in the Nordic region also helps when it comes to the perennial problem of keeping data centers from overheating. Facebook said it’s “using the chilly Nordic air to cool the thousands of servers that store your photos, videos, comments, and Likes. Any excess heat that is produced is used to keep our office warm.”

Lulea winters are long, dark and cold with temperatures below the freezing point five months of the year and with as little as four hours of daylight during December. That sets the northern Swedish location apart from Facebook’s other data centers in Prineville, Ore., and Forest City, N.C.

“In Prineville it does get hot in the summer so the fans work harder and we have to cool the air coming in,” Furlong said. “We’ll probably almost never have to do that here.”

Luleaa is also a net exporter of energy thanks to its location by the mouth of a river that generates twice as much power as the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

Material from Bloomberg News is used in this report.