Blackpool Council courts datacentre developers for tech-focused town regeneration project

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Blackpool Council is seeking the support of the datacentre community for its bid to create a sustainable technology campus that will capitalise on the town’s proximity to transatlantic undersea cables

Caroline Donnelly

By

  • Caroline Donnelly,
    Senior Editor, UK

Published: 29 May 2024 11:24

Blackpool Council is appealing to datacentre operators to support its bid to create a technology campus, dubbed Silicon Sands, to capitalise on the town’s close proximity to North Atlantic Loop undersea fibre cable network.

The 40-acre Silicon Sands campus will be located within the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, and will be populated by renewably powered datacentres that Blackpool Council hopes will attract businesses to the area that want low-latency connections to high-performance computing (HPC) resources.

As a starting point to the project, datacentre operators are being invited to discuss with Blackpool Council the possibility of partnering with it to create an artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing technology demonstration facility at the site.

The facility would also, as detailed in an expression of interest document published by the council, demonstrate the steps the datacentre industry is taking to ensure its continued growth does not come at the expense of the environment.

“It would showcase the use of liquid immersion cooling technology alongside sustainable energy supply and a district heating system with the aim of providing a holistic solution to the data industry’s energy and sustainability dilemma in the face of continued growth,” the document stated.

“Blackpool Council wishes to enter into exploratory dialogue and scoping discussions with organisations that have the capability and experience of working in such partnerships. This will enable the council to define its specific requirements, understand delivery models, market capability and assess the level of interest, should it enter into a formal procurement exercise or commercial partnership.”

The Silicon Sands initiative has the potential to attract inward investment from datacentre developers into Blackpool, the council said, in the same way that Dublin and New York has thanks to its close proximity to the Celtic-Connect2 internet cable.  

“Similar to how datacentre clusters have been developed in Dublin and New York, Blackpool’s access to the cable could create significant inward investment on the Fylde Coast, particularly given its low latency connectivity to the rest of Lancashire, including the proposed National Cyber Force in Samlesbury and a range of advanced manufacturing companies across the region,” the council said, in a statement.

“Equally, Silicon Sands will champion use of liquid immersion cooling technologies for datacentres, reducing the environmental impact and making the datacentres up to 50% more energy efficient.”

Mark Smith, the cabinet member for Levelling Up (Place) at Blackpool Council, said the Silicon Sands project has the potential to transform the town.

“With the power supply, land availability and ultra-fast internet access, we can sit at the heart of a new digital revolution not just for the town, but for the entire region,” said Smith.

“For Blackpool, this could mean significant inward investment and thousands of well-paid new jobs across the Fylde Coast, which in turn will retain the talent of our young people in Blackpool rather than losing them to other parts of the country, as well allowing high performance businesses of the future to grow fast on the Fylde Coast.

“For the datacentre industry, Silicon Sands offers the chance to reduce its impact on the environment and on the National Grid and show a modern climate friendly future that can major regeneration benefits.”

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