Promoting sportsmanship on the field – and on the net

In football, a red card means expulsion from the game. On the Internet, what would a red card resemble? This week, we launched a contest here in Belgium with the Mons Football Club youth clubs to help find out.

Why Belgium and why Mons? One of our two largest European data centers is located just outside the city. We’ve invested hundreds of millions in it and that means we are going to be involved in the local community for a long time to come. Belgium’s football reputation has been growing recently with an excellent showing at the recent Brazil World Cup – its top players are found sprinkled on many of the world’s top team – and the Mons youth academy is known as one of the country’s best.

Launching the contest in Belgium

The idea came from our strong partnership with the local Mundaneum institution and a partnership forged last year with one of the world’s biggest football clubs – Real Madrid. It held a contest called “First Prize for the Promotion of Internet Values.”

As in football, the Net bans violence towards others. When you play sports, you are obliged to help all who are injured or have a disability. On the Internet, too, you need to help others.

The Belgian contest will be open to 11-17 olds, the teenagers who are growing up on the net. From this month through April, the club’s teenage players will attend workshops and create projects – drawings, videos, or essays – that marry their passion for football, fair play and the Internet.

More than 120 young players from RAEC Mons attended the contest launch. Dressed in their team uniforms, most said they spent as much or more time surfing on the Net as on the playing field. They will now compete for prizes ranging from a Chromebook to a tablet. Winners will be announced on April 19 at the club’s final home match this season.

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Dutch windmills to power Google’s Eemshaven data centre

The Netherlands is famous for its windmills, which over the years have been used to saw wood, mill corn, pump water and much more. Now, a new generation of Dutch windmill – wind turbines – will power a very 21st century facility: our new EUR 600m data centre, currently under construction in the north of the Netherlands.

Thanks to a new long-term agreement signed this week with Dutch power company Eneco, our Eemshaven datacenter will be 100% powered by renewable energy from its first day of operation, scheduled for the first half of 2016. We’ve agreed to buy the entire output of a new Eneco windfarm — currently under construction at Delfzijl, near Eemshaven — for the next ten years.

By entering into long-term agreements like this one with wind farm developers, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new renewable energy facilities.

This is the third such power purchase agreement (PPA) we’ve signed in Europe in the last 18 months – the other two were with wind farm developers in Sweden and will power our Hamina, Finland datacenter with renewable energy.

Eneco’s new windfarm is an onshore-offshore development, which will use 18 turbines to generate 62 MW of renewable energy. Eneco expects the construction of the windfarm to provide employment for 80 people over the next 18 months.

This marks our eighth long-term agreement to purchase renewable energy around the globe. We sign these contracts for a few reasons: they make great financial sense for us by guaranteeing a long term source of clean energy for our data center and they also increase the amount of renewable energy available in the grid, which is great for the environment.

Posted by Francois Sterin, Director, Global Infrastructure Team
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Expanding our data centres in Europe

The Internet is growing fast and so is demand for our services, from search to Gmail and YouTube. In order to keep up with this growth, we are announcing a new EUR600 million investment over the next four years to build a new data centre in Eemshaven, the Netherlands.

At a time of high unemployment throughout Europe, the project promises a welcome infusion of jobs. Construction will provide work for more than 1000 workers. We expect to start initial operations in the first half of 2016 and to be fully operational by the end of 2017. By then, the centre will create employment for more than 150 people in a range of full-time and contractor roles. The jobs do not require phds in computer science; they include IT technicians, electrical and mechanical engineers, catering, facilities and security staff.

The new Dutch data centre will benefit from the latest designs in cooling and electrical technology. It will be free-cooled – taking advantage of natural assets like cool air and grey water to keep our servers cool. Our data centers use 50% less energy than a typical datacenter – and our intention is to run this new facility on renewable energy.

This will be Google’s fourth hyper efficient facility in Europe. Importantly, demand for Internet services remains so strong that the new building does not mean a reduction in expansion elsewhere. Our expansion will continue in Dublin in Ireland, in Hamina in Finland, and in St. Ghislain in Belgium. Our existing rented datacenter facility in Eemshaven also will continue to operate.

Since our investment in our first European datacenter back in 2007, we have been on the lookout for supportive communities with the necessary resources to support large data centers. The required ingredients are land, workforce, networking, a choice of power and other utilities including renewable energy supplies.

It’s much more efficient to build a few large facilities than many small ones. Eemshaven enjoys a direct cable connection to two major European Internet hubs, London and Amsterdam. In the Eemshaven, we’ve found a great community in a great location that meets the needs to become a backbone for the expanding Internet.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Data Centre Community Relations, Europe
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Honoring Finland’s Famed Architect Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto changed the way we see the world. Finland’s famed architect and designer not only built path-breaking buildings – during his long, fruitful life, he also designed some of the 20th century’s most innovative furniture, textiles and glassware. Today, we’re proud to announce a partnership with the Alvar Aalto Foundation to bring much of this genius’s important work online – allowing anyone, anywhere to virtually visit many of his his most important buildings and learn about his design breakthroughs.

This project means something special to many of us at Google. We have built one of our two largest data centers in Finland – and the architect of our data center building was none other than Aalto. The Finnish master originally designed our data center in Hamina as a paper mill. The mill closed in 2007. We took over the empty building, transformed and expanded it, investing so far almost a billion euros and creating hundreds of jobs in the region, while attempting to keep intact as much as possible of the Aalto heritage. Take a look. We’re publishing new Street View images of the renovated exterior and interior today on our main data center page.

Aalto designed many other buildings in the area around our data center – including the world-famed Sunila worker housing in Kotka. We long have shown the outsides of these buildings on StreetView. We’re now adding the interiors.

Many of Aalto’s most famous buildings are located hundreds of kilometers apart, making them difficult to visit. We toured the entire country to photograph his most important masterpieces. We went to his hometown Jyvaskyla in central Finland and photographed the Alvar Aalto Museum and Säynätsalo Town Hall.

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We went to Imatra and are presenting the famed Church of the Three Crosses.

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In the Finnish capital Helsinki, we captured not only Aalto’s own studio but also two important cultural buildings, Finlandia Hall and the House of Culture. At the Restaurant Savoy, Aalto brought Finnish nature into the center of Helsinki, designing still-in-production door knobs, clean-lined lighting fixtures, club chairs, and the famed Savoy vase, mirroring the outlines of a Finnish lake.

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The cooperation with Finland’s Aalto Foundation includes two new online exhibitions on our Google Cultural Institute platform. The first focuses on Aalto’s famed three legged stool 60. This much imitated model relied on one of Aalto’s most important innovations – a new process for bending wood that he applied to create organic shapes. The stool was designed in 1933 and was first used in two major early works of Aalto: Paimio Sanatorium and Vyborg Library before becoming an iconic piece of modernist furniture for people to furnish their homes with.

A second exhibition describes the renovation of the Vyborg Library. The building was immediately considered a modernist chef d’oeuvre, softening and humanizing the hard edges of German Bauhaus strictures into a new original, organic style, replacing steel with wood, and creating a warm, cosy atmosphere for the reader. When the Library was constructed, the city of Viipuri was in Finland. After World War II, Finland was forced to hand it over to the Soviet Union and it became Vyborg. The library survived the war but remained unused for twenty years and fell into disrepair. Finally in 2013 the renovation was completed.

Together, these initiatives demonstrate our commitment and confidence in Finland. This is a hard time for the country, with growth slowing and unemployment rising. At the same time, our Hamina data centre keeps expanding and Internet infrastructure represent an important ray of economic hope. As this project demonstrates, we are committed to the country and are delighted to use the Internet to promote Finnish culture.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe
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Bringing the Father of the Internet to Finland

Back in the 1970s, Vint Cerf played a decisive role developing what became the backbone of the future Internet – TCP/IP protocol that allowed computers to communicate with each other over an arbitrarily large number of networks. This “father of the Internet” recently visited Finland, home to our EUR850 million data centre in Eastern Finland and addressed an audience of 300 students at the beautiful new Vellamo Museum.

Many of our data centres are located in traditional industrial areas where one might not immediately think of being the home for a Google facility. In Finland, the region around our data center is struggling with the decline of its traditional economic motor – the paper industry. In March 2009, we purchased Summa Mill from Finnish paper company Stora Enso and converted the 60 year old paper mill. The first phase of the facility became operational in September 2011 and serves Google users across Europe and around the world.

During the recent event with Vint, the local data center directors Arni Jonsson and Herman Arsaelsson demystified the data center. They talke about how our investment is about more than just bricks, mortar and servers. Its about jobs. In Hamina, we’re providing work for (at peak) approximately 800 engineering and construction workers. In addition, the data center provides full time jobs for people who come from diverse backgrounds and skills. All of our open positions can be found on Google Jobs page.

Our economic and academic partners in Finland told about how we are helping the region to fly into the flourishing 21rst century digital economy. In the spring of 2013, we announced a new partnership with Aalto University and the regional development agency Cursor. With Google’s financial support, Aalto University is strengthening the Venture Gym acceleration program around the growing Playa Game Industry Hub, as well as the region’s Kaakko 135 travel and tourism initiative.

Vint continued by wowing everyone with a lecture about the past and future of the net. Take a look above at some of the highlights and enjoy a few minutes of news from the north of Europe.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe

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Improving our data centre energy performance

At Google we’re obsessed with building energy efficient data centers. Our facilities use 50% less energy than most other data centers, and we’re pushing ourselves to become even more efficient.

As part of this effort, our main European data centres, in St. Ghislain, Belgium, Hamina, Finland, and Dublin, Ireland recently were added to our ISO 50001 certification. Much like the environmental and workforce safety management certifications, ISO 50001 ensures we have a strong energy policy, build a robust auditing program, continually monitor, assess, and respond to our energy efficiency results.

Google Data Centere in Finland

Last year, we became the first company in North America to obtain a multi-site ISO 50001 certification for that system, covering our corporate data center operations and six U.S. data centers.

Another green priority for us is energy. Over the past year, we have signed two major contracts to buy all the electricity generated by Swedish wind farms for 10 years. By entering into long-term agreements with wind farm developers over the past few years, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new facilities. Once completed, the wind farms will provide Google’s Hamina, Finland, data center with additional renewable energy as the facility expands in coming years.

Overall, we’re focused on reducing our energy use while serving the explosive growth of the Internet. Most data centers use just as much non-computing or “overhead” energy (like cooling and power conversion) as they do to power their servers. At Google we’ve reduced this overhead to only 12%. That way, most of the energy we use powers the machines directly serving Google searches and products. We will continually push toward doing more with less—serving more users while consuming less energy.

Posted by Joe Kava, Vice President, Data Centres Operations
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Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture

The Belgian city of Mons becomes a European capital of culture next year, ushering in 12 months of festivities. One of Google’s two major European data centers is located just down the road from the city, making us a major local investor and employer. It is only natural that we want to help put some sparkle into the city’s ambitious capital of culture plans.

At today’s press conference launch of the Mons 2015 program, we launched something special and sparkling – new Indoor Street View images. Street View cars and trikes captured new imagery of some of Mons’s most famous buildings – both their exteriors – and for the first time, their interiors. These include the splendid Grand Place, including the inside of the the City Hall, the Collégiale Sainte Waudru, and the BAM art museum.

Mons is an architectural treasure. The canonesses of the Sainte Waudru religious community began their first church in 1450 and the Brabant Gothic style church remains of the most beautiful buildings in Mons. Inside, the exceptional Treasure of Sainte Waudru houses a precious collection of gold and remarkable 16th-century alabaster statues from the artist and Mons resident Jacques du Broeucq.

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The historic city centre is dominated by the Grand Place and its remarkable City Hall. Commissioned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, famed architect Matthijs de Layens designed the imposing edifice.

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Throughout the coming year and a half, we’ll continue to support the Mons 2015 adventure, in particular by working with our longtime partners, the Mundaneum archive. More than a century ago, two visionary Belgians envisioned the World Wide Web’s architecture of hyperlinks and indexation of information, not on computers, but on paper cards. Their creation was called the Mundaneum.

The Mundaneum plans an exciting “Mapping Knowledge” exhibition. Together, we are bringing high-level speakers to the city to explore Internet issues. Our own chief Internet evangelist and “father of the Internet” Vint Cerf recently visited and presented his vision of the future to a packed audience at the city’s 600 seat Manege Theater. Mons’ time on the big stage of European culture promises many more exciting events.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe
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More Swedish wind power for our Finnish data centre

We’re keen to make sure that our data centres around the world use as much renewable energy as possible. By entering into long-term agreements with wind farm developers over the past few years, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new facilities.

Today we announced that we’ve signed a new power purchase agreement (PPA) in Sweden (our second such agreement there in less than 12 months). We will buy the entire electricity output of four as-yet-unbuilt wind farms in southern Sweden, at a fixed price, for the next ten years.

Windfarm developer Eolus Vind will build four wind farms, in Alered, Mungseröd, Skalleberg and Ramsnäs, Sweden. The 29-turbine project, with a total combined capacity of 59MW, already has all relevant planning approvals and permits and will become fully operational in early 2015.

Picture: Our seawater-cooled data centre in Hamina, Finland

Once completed, the wind farms will provide Google’s Hamina, Finland, data centre with additional renewable energy as the facility expands in coming years.

Buying renewable energy in Sweden and consuming it in Finland is possible thanks to Europe’s increasingly integrated power markets, in particular the Nord Pool spot market. This allows Google to buy renewable energy with Guarantee of Origin certification in Sweden, “retire” the certificates and then consume an equivalent amount of power elsewhere in Europe.

This marks our sixth long-term agreement to purchase renewable energy. We keep signing these contracts for two main reasons: they make great financial sense for us, and increase the amount of renewable energy available in the grid, which is great for the environment too.

Posted by Francois Sterin, Director, Global Infrastructure Team
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Joining Belgium and Finland around data centres

At first glance, it’s hard to think of two cultures more different than Belgium’s southern French speaking Wallonia and Finland’s southeastern lake region. Finland is rural, Nordic, and Lutheran, a place of big spaces, big forests, and big lakes. Belgium is urban, Latin and Roman Catholic, a place of crowded industrial landscapes, carefully cultivated fields and man-made canals.

Sunset at our data centre in Belgium

And yet, both are homes to Google data centres, and when our Finnish partners recently visited Belgium for two days of workshops, they found many things in common. Both regions built their economies on big traditional industries that are fast disappearing – paper and pulp in Finland, coal and steel in Belgium. Both have big neighbors – Russia and France. And both have a willpower to work with us to help jump, as our partners put it, “from the Industrial Heartland to the Internet age.”

It was a fruitful two day visit. The dozen-person Finnish team, lead by the regional development agency Cursor and Aalto University, told about their success in spawning video games startups and boosting online local tourism. The Belgian team, led by the local Mundaneum Museum spoke about plans to use the net for its upcoming 2015 celebration of the regional capital and hometown Mons as a European capital of culture.

We also compared common challenges – improving the two regions’ level of English and other skills needed to attract international business. Both regions aim to create web incubators and web startups, projects we are aim to support.

Over the past year, we have disbursed more than EUR1 million of grants to local organizations around the data centers. These fund a wide range of activities, from a Popmaton at Mons’ Andy Warhol exhibit to measuring water health in southeastern Finland’s rivers to supporting a computer science contest at the University of Mons, including exhibitions and talks on Internet issues and opportunities in both countries. It was gratifying to see our partners getting to know each other personally and pledging to work together to common goals. We have dug deep roots in these two different but similar regions and plan to continue planting deep roots in computer science, environment and empowering cultural institution.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Brussels
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Expanding our data center in Finland

Six decades ago, the famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto built a stunning red-brick paper mill in Eastern Finland. After the plant was shut, we bought it have transformed it into a modern data center – literally jumping from the industrial to the digital age. Today, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainan joined us at our Hamina data center in Eastern Finland to announce a EUR450 million expansion to what already is one of the world’s most efficient and largest facilities.

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainan visits our Hamina construction site.

Many of our data centres are located in traditional industrial areas where one might not immediately think of being the home for a Google facility. In Finland, the region around our Hamina data centre stands at the heart of a region hard-hit by the retrenchment of its paper industry.

Our data centers can provide real motors to reinvigorate these industrial regions. With our financial support, the prestigious Aalto University and the regional development agency Cursor are working to bolster promising startups and to improve the use of the Internet by local small and medium sized industries. Cursor is strengthening the Venture Gym acceleration program around the growing Playa Game Industry Hub, as well as the region’s Kaakko 135 travel and tourism initiative. Already, some 800 people and dozens of companies in the region have participated in Aalto-Cursor workshops, not only in the region, but also in Helsinki, London and Cambridge.

Today’s announcement will triple the size of the existing facility, which became operational in September 2011. At its peak, approximately 800 engineering and construction workers, most of whom will be Finnish, will be engaged on the site. Some 125 people currently employed at the datacenter in full time and contractor roles across engineering, technical work, security, food service, and buildings and grounds maintenance. All of our open positions can be found on Google Jobs page for positions in Finland.

Alvar Aalto never lived to see the Internet and data centers. But we hope he would have been pleased to see how our data center safeguards and updates his spirit of pioneering architecture.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of community relations, Europe
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