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Spain's Merlin enters data race with eco-friendly centres project

MADRID, April 6 (Reuters) - Spain’s Merlin said on Tuesday it planned to build four carbon-neutral data centres across Spain and Portugal as it seeks to diversify from its coronavirus-hit real estate business and cater to data-intensive companies such as Netflix.

The data centres will be built in partnership with tech infrastructure specialist Edged Energy on plots of land within Merlin’s existing logistics portfolio in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

The companies will also install over 100MW of electric vehicle charging stations alongside the data centres for logistics clients looking to convert their freight fleet to electric trucks as pressure mounts to cut carbon emissions.

As the pandemic accelerates the digitisation of activity and increases dependence on both logistics and data processing, the need for large, reliable data centres closer to population hubs - which often boast dense fibre optic networks - has grown.

“You can’t service Spanish 5G markets from the availability zones in the Netherlands or U.S.,” said Merlin co-founder David Brush. “Docusign, Dropbox, Salesforce, Netflix – all those customer uses drive demand for data centres, with COVID accelerating the need.”

With ultra-fast 5G mobile data looming, the world’s data infrastructure should be more widespread to avoid serious lags in online activity - and become less energy-intensive, Edged Energy founder Jakob Carnemark told Reuters.

Edged Energy, a subsidiary of renewable technologies company Endeavour, will build the data centres linked to local renewable energy grids, and consuming no water - an unusual feature in a field known for guzzling water to cool its servers.

“Our focus is to make data centres better stewards of water and energy, and provide resiliency services for the grid as it adopts more variable energy sources,” Carnemark said, adding that Spain - with its access to submarine fibre optic cables and entry points into Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the United States - was becoming an ideal location for servicing data. (Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; editing by Supantha Mukherjee and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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