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Press release: Naval Group deploy Microsoft underwater data centre at EMEC

Phase 2 of Microsoft’s ‘Project Natick’ has been initiated at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney with the deployment of an underwater data centre powered by renewables.

Naval Group led the successful installation of the 450kW subsea data centre at EMEC’s Billia Croo wave energy test site, on the west coast of the Orkney mainland, on 1st June 2018 by local marine contractor Green Marine.

Project Natick is a Microsoft research project investigating the numerous potential benefits that a standard, manufacturable, deployable undersea data centre could provide. The project is part of Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud data centre solutions that are less resource intensive and offer rapid provisioning, lower costs, and high agility to meet the needs of cloud users around the world.

Deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling, a controlled environment, and has the potential to be powered by co-located renewable power sources, such as the pioneering wave and tidal energy technologies testing nearby at EMEC’s test sites.

The data centre, which is as powerful as several thousand high end consumer PCs and has enough storage for about five million movies, is anticipated to remain on site for around one year with the potential to remain at EMEC for up to five years.

Further details on the project are available on Microsoft’s blog: The Orkney Islands in Scotland just became one of the most exciting places in tech

The Scottish Government’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse said:

“I am delighted that Microsoft and Naval Group have chosen Scotland as the location for this globally significant project.

“With our supportive policy environment, skilled supply chain, and our renewable energy resources and expertise, Scotland is the ideal place to invest in projects such as this and the project is yet another example of how the internationally recognised European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney is helping to attract valuable inward investment.

“This development is, clearly, especially welcome news also for the local economy in Orkney and a boost to the low carbon cluster there and helps to strengthen Scotland’s position as a champion of the new ideas and innovation that will shape the future.”

Ben Cutler, Project Natick Manager at Microsoft Research, Microsoft:

“Deploying at EMEC in the Orkney Islands, on a grid powered from locally-sourced renewable energy, matches our aspirations as a project and our commitment as a company to environmental sustainability.”

Neil Kermode, Managing Director, EMEC:

“It’s been a pleasure working with Microsoft and Naval Group on this novel project to support efforts to build responsible and sustainable cloud services, and advance a clean energy future. This deployment is another step towards developing an integrated, low-carbon future, and we’re delighted to host Microsoft’s data centre at our Billia Croo test site.”

Béatrice Nicolas-Meunier, Managing Director of Development & Programs R&D, Naval Group:

“EMEC’s involvement on the Project Natick is a great asset and Naval Group is pleased to count this company among its partners. Our collaboration has been a key element for the implementation of the Project Natick phase 2. The test site offers a favourable environment to operate Microsoft’s underwater data centre, using EMEC’s strong capabilities in marine renewable energies.”

The project is being partly supported by the INTERREG NWE FORESEA programme which has facilitated continuous remote monitoring from the Microsoft team based in Washington, USA.

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