China has approved plans to build four mega clusters of data centres in the country’s north and west with the aim of supporting the data needs of Beijing and major coastal centres, according to the country’s top state planner on Wednesday.
The clusters will be built in the Inner Mongolia and Ningxia regions as well as Gansu and Guizhou provinces, the National Development and Reform Commission said in four separate statements.
The four locations can use their energy and environmental advantages to set up green and low-carbon mega data centres, the state planner said.
The move comes as power-hungry data centres located in China‘s east have found it difficult to expand due to limits imposed by local governments on electricity consumption.
Some cities in China‘s northern and western regions rich in renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power have already built data centres to serve the economically developed coast.
But their distant locations have meant the centres have struggled to provide the near-instantaneous retrieval demanded by coastal clients with little tolerance for delays.
It is unclear how China would turn western and northern regions such as Ningxia and Gansu, which are 1,000 km (600 miles) from the coast, into actively operating centres of computing power given the data latency caused by the huge distances to data users in the east.
A marine economy development plan published on December 14 encouraged major coastal cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai to relocate high energy-consuming data centres to underwater locations to cut energy used for cooling.
China aims to expand “big data” into a more than 3 trillion yuan ($470 billion) sector by 2025 through the building of several such clusters, according to a 2021-2025 plan by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued in November.
• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard