Renewable energy sources make Australia likely headquarters for global data”

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Australia’s growing sources of renewable energy open the door to a future as the world’s most secure repository for Big Tech’s data

John Lucas, a strategist at net-zero specialist investment manager Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, says there is an opportunity for Australia to become a major player in green data centers in Asia-Pacific.

“When we look at the resources Australia has — the strict data sovereignty laws in place, its position within the current geopolitical environment around the world — it’s a very strong candidate,” he told AAP during a visit from the United States. US

“What we’ve been dealing with a lot lately is understanding where everything comes from from an ESG (environmental, social and governance) point of view,” he says.

“Where are all the components that go into this infrastructure, the renewable energy and security in the supply chain?”

Data would be funneled undersea from the US to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, providing opportunities for jobs and a new industry, Mr Lucas said.

South Korea is a major regional rival, but must find large amounts of energy to power and cool new data centers.

Data center operator Empyion DC is developing a 40 megawatt green data center in Gangnam; Digital Edge has a 120MW project in the Asian country and ST Telemedia Global Data Centers unveiled a 30MW development in June, according to research from Fitch Solutions.

Safe

Quinbrook’s $2.5 billion, 800 MW “Supernode” project in Brisbane is attracting calls from Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix looking for a safe place to transmit massive amounts of data.

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“Going forward, with ESG increasingly at the forefront of corporate and government agendas, we expect more data centers to shift their focus to sustainable operations,” Fitch Solutions said in their report.

Australia may lag behind South Korea’s digital adoption and heavy investment in artificial intelligence (AI), the Korean metaverse (K-Metaverse), and 5G.

But, connected by vital submarine cables, Australia is expected to benefit from the demand for data centers that will bring the new technologies to Asia-Pacific and North America.

“By 2025, their cloud should be 100 percent renewable for all major data center operators,” said Mr. Lucas.

“By 2030, their cloud should be net zero or some form of net zero, or even carbon negative.”

Major players such as Microsoft, which have an important partnership with Australia’s Telstra, are beginning to consider the future data center pipeline.

Asked by AAP about the outlook for big data, Telstra’s outgoing CEO Andy Penn says there are opportunities for Australia’s largest telecommunications company.

“It’s definitely an area we’re investing in,” Mr Penn said after addressing the National Press Club in Canberra.

Microsoft alliance

A recent deal with Microsoft sees them become an anchor tenant on Telstra’s new inter-capital direct fiber network between capitals, to send data in and out of the cloud and their data center.

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But running mega data centers and large-scale telecommunications also takes a lot of energy.

“So that’s a challenge,” says Mr. Penn.

“But the flip side is that people who do things digitally generally compensate for doing things physically, which has a compensating impact on the environment.”

Mr. Lucas of Quinbrook says that goals for a cleaner economy are also being pursued by the customers using the data centers.

“They want their payload in the cloud to meet their own sustainability requirements for their business,” he says.

“That’s what really puts Australia at the forefront.

“There is the opportunity to build a market and continue to grow in the renewable and energy sector to meet those needs of 100 percent renewable and net zero.”

The Supernode project has built in renewable energy and large scale battery energy storage and is close to the heart of the Queensland power grid with already approved high capacity connections.

It could also benefit from a new submarine cable with a landing station in Queensland’s Maroochydore, giving Australia a link to America’s governments and industries, who must send their data to a safe place.

Queensland’s first direct international data and telecommunications link to world markets provides the fastest international connection point from Eastern Australia to Asia, according to the state government.

A 550 km submarine fiber optic cable connects the Sunshine Coast to the 7000 km Japan-Guam-Australia South submarine cable.

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The 30-acre Supernode site in Brendale will intersect the new Torus dark fiber data cable currently under construction, which will connect Brisbane directly to the international cable that has landed in Maroochydore this year.

The growing impact of renewable energy

“Such infrastructure, along with the ability to continue developing a renewable energy industry in Australia, really helps give this market a bit of a head start in the region,” said Mr Lucas.

From a career perspective, data centers and their lifespans of over 20 years as assets could be an attractive option for many Australians seeking employment outside of emissions-intensive manufacturing or coal and gas extraction.

But it’s important that data centers work with the communities around them and the work that supports them, says Mr. Lucas.

“Not just building what people hire and bringing people in, but also helping to develop those skills locally,” he explains.

“The other thing you’ll see is normally you don’t see one data center build and then it’s done. Normally there will be follow-ups and that helps drive growth and develop jobs and skills.”

The centers will require construction workers and maintenance workers, as well as data engineers.

There must also be a major transmission expansion, backup generation and energy storage.

“Australia already has a lot of those capabilities – there are just a few tweaks to apply that to data centers,” said Mr. Lucas.

-with MONKEY

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