'Game-changing' data centre set for Fylde coast

By Tim Aldred

29 May 2024

Silicon Sands Artists Impression

A new high-performance data centre is to be built at Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone, attracting inward investment and sparking the creation of thousands of high quality jobs.

Silicon Sands will take advantage of the Celtix-Connect2 internet cable that connects Blackpool with New York, Dublin and northern Europe as part of the North Atlantic Loop, which carries up to one-third of the world’s internet traffic.

Similar to how data centre 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.

Silicon Sands would also boast carbon friendly credentials, offering at least 50MVA of renewable energy through an agreement with Electricity North West and a potential solar farm. It will use liquid immersion cooling technologies for data centres, reducing the environmental impact and making the data centres up to 50 per cent more energy efficient.

Feasibility studies are taking place to connect Silicon Sands to a district heat network, with waste heat from the data centres being re-used to heat the surrounding new businesses.

In addition to the data centre itself, the 40-acre site will offer development land for businesses which could benefit from direct access to a data centre, including high performance sectors such as Artificial Intelligence, telehealth, advanced manufacturing and gaming.

The plans for Silicon were revealed at UK REiiF (UK’s Real Estate Investment & Infrastructure Forum which attracts over 12,000 property-related professionals) to a series of potential data centre developers and investors.

Coun Mark Smith, cabinet member for levelling up (place) at Blackpool Council, said: “Silicon Sands has the potential to be a complete game-changer in our plans to make Blackpool better. 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.

“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 data centre 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.”

A first data centre is set to start construction next year on a cleared area of land and Blackpool Council is hosting an expression of interest for data centre developers and operators to build and run the site, which would also include a research and office facility on upper floors.

To develop the Silicon Sands site, work is progressing to relocate and rebuild old hangars and administration buildings at Blackpool Airport closer to the main runway.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Tim Aldred

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