124 of the 138 “data centers” in France are located in Île-de-France, in particular in Seine-Saint-Denis
Without a digital safe, it is impossible to send an email or use an application. “Data centers” or data centers have become essential in our daily lives and are proliferating in Île-de-France, where their “energy-intensive” presence arouses controversy.
Behind the small screen of a phone hides “a warehouse in which we store tens or hundreds of thousands of computers which operate 24 hours a day and are part of the cloud”, summarizes Arnaud de Bermingham, president of Scaleway, a subsidiary hosting company Iliad (Free). The group has four data centers in France, all located in Île-de-France.
These infrastructures, which have nothing virtual, are being installed in the Ile-de-France region because “they need great electrical power, optical fibers and land away from areas of natural risk”, explains Cécile Diguet, town planner. at the Institut Paris region.
The century of cable networks and data centers
In 2021, Île-de-France has 124 “data centers” out of the 138 referenced in the region. And Seine-Saint-Denis constitutes the first concentration of data storage in Europe, because with its industrial past the department has “large plots of wasteland at low cost”.
Interxion, one of the world leaders, has offered the Airbus Helicopters plant in La Courneuve to set up “the largest data center in France on seven hectares”, according to its director Fabrice Coquio. In September, the American group will inaugurate the first building of the mega-complex, an investment “of more than one billion euros”. Its clients: Facebook, Google, Tinder… “All the major players in American tech, telecommunications, but also French groups and institutions”.
The increase in digital consumption, especially with teleworking, the development of connected objects and artificial intelligence, requires more storage. “In the 19th century, we built stations, in the 20th century motorways and airports, in the 21st century, we built cable networks and data centers,” analyzes the boss of Interxion France.
But these digital safes can have effects “on health”, believes Cécile Diguet who points to “the risks associated with the storage of fuel oil” intended for generators in the event of a breakdown, electromagnetic waves or noise from air conditioners.
In Essonne, an agglomeration won a first step against the construction of the Amazon “data center” in Brétigny-sur-Orge. The regional prefecture refused approval in April. In its decree, it notes “that no solution of recovery of the fatal heat (released) produced by the project […] is not offered ”. The digital giant has filed a gracious appeal
“I’m not against data centers,” says Eric Braive, president of Coeur d’Essonne, which brings together 21 municipalities. “But we say to Amazon: you are the biggest company in the world, you cannot make an average data center. It must be as innovative as possible and contribute to the energy bill ”. This future center “is not attached to the heating of a swimming pool or of social housing, it is an energy-intensive product which loses this energy”, regrets the elected official.
Amazon wants to build its center near an industrial building belonging to it, but also next to an organic farm which “produces 130 tonnes of vegetables per season,” recalls Eric Braive. The elected official also hoped that the arrival of Amazon would provide jobs. But the project is only equivalent to “100 or 200 jobs maximum”.
Use virtuous technologies
“A data center is very energy intensive”, concedes the president of Scaleway. For its center in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône (Val-d’Oise), the electricity bill amounts to one million euros per month. As far as the eye can see: rows of computers, servers or routers connected to fiber optics.
But this “data center” does not use air conditioning and “consumes between 40 and 50% less energy”, using an “ancestral” system called “adiabatic”, welcomes Arnaud de Bermingham. The heat given off by the machines, which is permanently overheated, is mixed with the outside air and reused to cool the computers.
If it is impossible to do without “data centers”, “virtuous technologies are possible”, assures the company manager.