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QScale building 96MW ‘eco friendly’ data centre in Levis, Que.

QScale says it is on track to complete the first 15 MW phase of its “eco-friendly” high-performan...

IMAGE: Architectural concept of QScale's Q01 Campus

An architectural concept of the Q01 Campus upon completion of all eight phases. (Courtesy QScale)

QScale says it is on track to complete the first 15 MW phase of its “eco-friendly” high-performance computing campus in Lévis, Que. by December.

Designed to support a wide range of computing and cooling technologies, including rear-door cooling (RDHx), direct liquid cooling (DLC), and immersive cooling, the Q01 Campus will provide solutions for companies focused on self-driving cars, biomedical research, and the metaverse.

When its eight phases are fully built out over the next few years, the facility will feature 96MW of IT capacity. It will comprise almost a million sq. ft. of building space, powered by renewable energy and integrate heat recovery initiatives.

QScale has a deal with Hydro Quebec to access 142 MW reserved to operate the facility. Because the electricity is from hydroelectric sources, clients won’t need to purchase carbon credits, and company representatives expect to see some of the lowest rates for electricity in North America.

Cooling solutions reduce data centres’ CO2 impact

QScale president Martin Bouchard said the clean energy produced for the campus and ensuring the heat generated doesn’t go to waste could make Lévis a carbon-neutral facility. By comparison, he said if one were to move from a coal-powered computing setup to Quebec’s clean hydro, it would be the equivalent of taking 31,000 cars from the road.

Heat generated from the data centre is used for an adjacent agricultural greenhouse facility. The infrastructure and agricultural complex will be built and financed through an as-yet-unannounced partnership.

“(We’re talking about) 142 megawatts . . . that can heat about 100 football fields of greenhouses, so that’s a lot of tomatoes,” Bouchard said. “We could be able to grow at 82,200 tonnes of tomatoes (with that energy).”

It will also result in 816,000 MWh in annual energy savings and 146,576 in GHG yearly reductions, QScale says. At a time when consumers’ cloud computing needs already consume plenty of energy, companies like QScale are building facilities that reduce environmental impact using state-of-the-art cooling technologies.

The Lévis facility will also support air and liquid-cooled racks of up to 100kW in density. The cooling itself will be free up to 80 per cent of the year, the company claims, due to the province’s colder climate.

Investors propelling QScale efforts 

Bouchard wouldn’t reveal specific clients, as QScale is under non-disclosure agreements, but said the company is talking to the “top four or five big players” in global cloud computing, as well as computing equipment manufacturers.

“The beauty of it is that we’re not limited to serve the Canadian clients or Quebec clients because when you do cloud computing, you send your data (around the world),” Bouchard said. “It could be a scientist in Singapore, a biotech firm in California, or a self-driving car company in Europe.”

The Quebec government has provided a $60 million loan and acquired $30 million in company shares. Desjardins Capital also invested $60 million, and a group of private investors — mostly Quebecers — invested the other $45 million for the first-phase total of $195 million.

Upon completing its eight phases, this first campus will represent a total investment of $867 million. The project has been in development since 2019, and construction started in May 2021.

It is also expected to bring more than 200 jobs to the area.

Future campuses planned in Quebec

Thanks to the province’s clean hydro grid, there are also plans for additional campuses in Quebec. The Q02 campus is being designed for the south shore of Montreal to have three and five sites over the next 10 years.

QScale’s goal is for future campuses to make similar technological advances. One method for this is the facility’s concrete floors, which will support heavier supercomputers in the future.

Both current and future campuses will also feature EV charging stations.

“We tried to build the infrastructure to be future proof, even though you never know exactly when the future will be,” Bouchard said. “We’re one of the few places in the world that can host major supercomputers that are starting to emerge these days.”

QScale was founded in Quebec City in 2018 and is based in Lévis. It specializes in the design, construction, operation and management of environmentally friendly HPC facilities.

The global data centre liquid cooling market is expected to nearly triple by 2027, exceeding $8.3 billion, according to a Research and Markets report.

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