Tuesday, 7 December 2010

From Aluminium to Data?

For Sale: the Anglesey Aluminium site in Penrhos,  Holyhead
If you have deep enough pockets, below you can find the sales prospectus for Anglesey Aluminum's Penrhos site near Holyhead. The total land comes to 33.5 Hectares (184 acres), with 114,781 sqm (1,235,500 sqft) of internal floorspace within the various buildings on the site. AAM will continue to operate a re-melt facility at the site on land rented back from the eventual purchaser. Furthermore, a portion of the land has been earmarked for a biomass plant pending planning permission. AAM have already commenced the decommissioning of the remainder of the site which will take up to 18 months to complete. According to the Daily Post, offers are expected in the region of £10m -- the equivalent of approx. £54K per acre.

Apparently the site has already attracted significant interest from energy and fabrication firms -- indeed, the sales prospectus confidently informs readers that "Expressions of Interest are to be submitted ... by 12.00 Noon on Monday 10th January 2011", in triplicate.

One of the most important aspects of the site's infrastructure is its direct 120MW connection to Wylfa nuclear power station. When operational, Anglesey Aluminium used to use up to 20% of the total electricity consumed daily in Wales. Accordingly possibly the most suitable use for the site would be for a business which requires both huge amounts of energy coupled with an uninterruptible connection to the grid. A regular commenter on this blog has suggested that a Data Centre could fit this bill.

The trend towards cloud computing means that Data Centres -- gigantic, secure facilities which house thousands of computer systems and servers -- are becoming more and more important. Indeed one such plant, the £200m Next Generation Data Centre, was recently completed with some WAG support on the site of an ex-LG factory in Newport, South Wales. As the AAM plant already enjoys a direct electricity supply from Wylfa, has potential access to the "fibrespeed" fibre-optic network already installed at the adjacent Parc Cybi, and access to sea water for cooling purposes, might a Data Centre not only be a suitable use for the site but also provide much needed skilled work in the region too?
Anglesey Aluminium For Sale


Anonymous said...

What optimism !

Anonymous said...

Exciting news if something like this goes ahead.

But would such a location be secure? If this site is housing vulnerable information, wouldn't it be an easy target to infiltrate?

Wouldn't the site need to be bomb proof like the huge data centre down in London Docklands?

They're going to need to embed themselves into the rock or something. Somewhere like Trawsfynydd would be ideal if it was still running.

TGC said...

Optimism, perhaps, but a very constructive proposal. What many of us fail to appreciate is just how important 'remote' data centres like this have already become; it's clear that, whatever the many dangers of storing data off-site, this is the way things are firmly going, and many large businesses have long ago signed-up to data centre deals that means they don't worry one bit (pardon the pun!) about IT maintenance.

Anglesey totally missed the point about the IT and computer fabrication revolution that happened a couple of decades ago, and which it could have made much from had it the right people in place.

This time, I agree with Druid and his commenter that we need to 'get with it' and turn Anglesey into more than just a site for a nuclear power plant that not everybody wants to work at. What's more, the typically young, middle-class folk who operate these data centres are just the kind of people who also enjoy watersports and the outdoor life in general.

Prometheuswrites said...


"Cloud computing 'could give EU76bn-euro boost'"


"Government reveals super-fast broadband plans"

The greatest obstacle to progress is a lack of imagination.

Anonymous said...

"They're going to need to embed themselves into the rock or something".

I believe Holyhead has it's very own mountain.

Anonymous said...

Mind blowing when I read it, my mind is shocked at the information, I'm going to have to lie down before I get a nose bleed.

Anonymous said...

What about the language issue ... sure to put most people off, it has in the past.

Puck said...

"What about the language issue"

Computer language is bi-nary not bi-lingual.

Anonymous said...

"What about the language issue"

Not an issue in any other part of the world, is it? The 1960s and trench politics are long gone, after all.

Anonymous said...

and a failing education system .... why would anyone bother to invest here?

Anonymous said...

Typical Holyhead/Anglesey negativity creeping in here again we see....hardly unexpected of a depressed shanty town and its low-IQ politicians who nurture its own deathwish !
No-one will pay £10M for this or any other employment site in Anglesey, that is for sure.
No, the AA site needs WAG financial support by way of incentives to attract an user.
And, forget selling the freehold, try offering a flexible lease at an affordable rent....and you may get somewhere with this idea.

Anonymous said...

Nose bleed gone now, I never realised how big the place was, let's not all be so negative, the best way forward is to think positive and hopefully something may come of it.

Anonymous said...

Think we've been doing that for generations ..... it never works!

We have serious problems here, serious issues to confront and serious solutions to put in place.

Has anyone ever wondered why the UK is such a favourable tourist destination. Yes, royalty is a big attraction but the opportunity to learn/practice the language is perhaps the main draw.

Rio Tinto should become a massive school for learning the English language. Just think how many millions of Chinese would prefer to come to the UK rather than be forced to go to Ireland for their language studies.

The Red Flag said...

Adata centre is a very good idea however it won't come because Wylfa is here - it will need a definate Wylfa B and that in itself is by no means definate, or possibly a large bio-mass generating facility. It being located on Anglesey (and as such the periphery of the UK) is no big deal. So long as it's fibre-opticed and connected into the main system where it is in comparison to London or whereever is irrelevant. What does go against it is the technical workforce - the computing and IT graduates. They tend to gravitate towards London etc as they tend to change employer fairly frequerntly as they 'sell' their skills to the highest bidding employer. They may feel that there is not a reason to come here for a couple of years and that if they do they will be to far from the centre of the action so to speak.

Bi-lingualism mentioned above is a total red herring. The dsata is storedby not read by the staff.

I agree with one of the other posters though - it's not secure. Data storage centres are in usually 'hardened' facilities with extremley difficult access to not only the storage area but the main site itself. The one in docklands is a prime example. As I recall it's deep underground and no-one can get anywhere near it without major security checks. The prospect of 'sharing' with the remains of Anglesey Aluminium's smelting operation may be a big minus in a prospective bidder's eyes.

Bloody good idea though.

Anonymous said...

I like this idea in principle.

It needs more analysis though, especially of its costs vs benefits in employment terms, and its timeliness vs what the IT industry needs.

Let's start by comparing it with the recently opened world-class datacentre in Newport, for example, which has its own 170MW grid supply (proving that you don't need a nuke next door - but maybe it would help). This datacentre opened earlier this year (having been converted from an abandoned LG Semiconductor factory) and is expected to deliver (wait for it) 100 jobs. Wow. Couple of references below, there are lots more if you look.

OK the M25 area is the UK's current datacentre focus but prices (and wages?) down there are starting to be outrageous, so maybe there is some opportunity to displace some of that.

The IT industry is remarkably fashion-driven and I fear this idea may be a little late for the "cloud computing" fashion.

Some workers may need decent broadband so they can get remote access when necessary; bit risky in some parts?

As to other concerns mentioned: Newport sorted security, surely so can Holyhead/Wylfa? There are indeed lots of IT jobs inside the M25 parking zone, and there are LOTS of IT people who hate the M25 lifestyle and would be delighted to work somewhere like Anglesey. In return, maybe they'd work for (a lot?) less money. Some of these people already live in NorthWest England (some I knew were even commuting along the A55 to the NorthWest) and already know what Anglesey has to offer. A lot of datacentre work isn't rocket science and smart/motivated local folks could be trained up, but some initial imports would be needed.

Anyway, who's going to go find out how Newport got theirs going, and do the same on Anglesey? That "business archdruid" mentioned the other day would seem the obvious one to kick off the analysis of the project's viability.



richard sletzer said...

I know someone who actually owns and runs a number of these data centres. He got into the business almost by accident and rode the wave of ever-increasing demand. As a result it's all his own private company with no debt and no shareholders.

The address of these establishments is never put in the public domain. Likewise, the names of the clients are more secret than the customers of a Swiss Bank.

The power requirement is high but nothing like that of an aluminium smelter. Data centres need most power for cooling the servers. What can't happen though is a power outage. There has to be back-up power, and back-up to the back-up and UPS too.

There is a killer problem for Anglesey though. I doubt if the local comms infrastructure is anything like big enough - or fast enough - for this kind of operation. The bandwidth required is simply enormous.

Anonymous said...

Never mind whether it works or not as long as there is plenty of back handers and perks to be had?

Prometheuswrites said...

"There has to be back-up power, and back-up to the back-up and UPS too".

True. This is a legal requirement for data centres - there's Dinorwic power station which is connected to the grid nearby and all those 'renewable energy' wind generators.

For data cable back-up/failsafe Fibrespeeds website map of their data links show a back-up line (resilient route) running from Parc Cybi to the Manchester gateway.


Anonymous said...

Oh please, stop talking about nonsense infrastructure. Infrastructure can be sorted, it's easy, it just costs money. And here it's damn cheap!

Start talking about why. Why would businesses/talented staff want to come here?

And then think hospitals. And ask yourself why we can't get enough doctors/talented nurses to come here.

And then admit the truth .....

Puck said...

Anon 22.22

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change"?

My mate Sgt Oddball - Kellys Heros

Anonymous said...

I hope my council tax will be less in 2011 than it was in 2010.

Is that hopeful enough?

TGC said...

"And then think hospitals. And ask yourself why we can't get enough doctors/talented nurses to come here."

Because politicians feel they have to tinker endlessly with the NHS to stay in power; they know it's what the people could use to bring them down. Consequently, doctors and nurses are used to gain political points for their masters, which has led to the disillusionment of today.

Anonymous said...

"I doubt if the local comms infrastructure is anything like big enough - or fast enough - for this kind of operation. The bandwidth required is simply enormous."

There you go, then - a simple way, by making an investment in the needed improvements, for the Assembly to show it really does support the north as well as the south of Wales.

Ieuan? Hello?..

richard sletzer said...

Anyone who would like to see the sort of installation involved in setting up a data centre might find this video interesting:-

This shows one of the units set up in London by the stock-market quoted company TeleCity.

Photon said...

One interesting (to me, anyway) question that arises from all this discussion is: could we capitalise on our remote position as a 'secure' location for hosting things like this?

The reality of terrorism is that nobody has ever been - or ever will be - interested in blowing anything up on Anglesey. Many IRA bombs in the 70s and 80s are sure to have gone through Holyhead, but none went off in Wales. No, the big news and disruption is to be had by targetting the large conurbations.

Not that I'm condoning anything like terrorism, but I think that it's true that things that require a good degree of security could do much worse than set-up on Anglesey. Wylfa has its Civil Nuclear Police and we have good port security and two bridges that any wrongdoer has no option but to try and cross. At last, a positive aspect to being an isolated island, far from the madding crowd!

richard sletzer said...

I recall there was a gelignite bomb placed at Holyhead breakwater in 1969 where the Prince of Wales was due to disembark from the Royal Yacht for the Investiture - but as it didn't go off I don't suppose it counts.

Promoetheuswrites said...

"There you go, then - a simple way, by making an investment in the needed improvements, for the Assembly to show it really does support the north as well as the south of Wales.

Ieuan? Hello?.. "

I believe Ieuan was instrumental in securing £100M for telecommunications infrastructure along the North Wales coast.

Credit given where credit due.

Anonymous said...

When the smelter/Wylfa closing was originally talked about, was there not talk of a problem getting 100MW+ from off the island to the smelter? Or was it merely a commercial issue? The megadatacentre idea can't be left dependendent on Wylfa B.

"The address of these establishments is never put in the public domain. Likewise, the names of the clients are more secret than the customers of a Swiss Bank."

Depends. BT and Logica don't mind being mentioned as customers in the Newport centre, whose location is well known.

"The power requirement is high but nothing like that of an aluminium smelter."

Depends. The Newport one is wired for very roughly the same capacity as the smelter was. A smaller one would use less, but also have fewer jobs.

Backup power is a commercial (not legal) requirement. A backup 100MW supply is a big project - as much power as around 100 HST diesel railway engines or 4 Rolls Royce RB211 industrial gas turbines. But if Newport can do it (and Newport doesn't have the sea for cost-effective cooling)...

"I doubt if the local comms infrastructure is anything like big enough - or fast enough - for this kind of operation. The bandwidth required is simply enormous. "

Prometheus and the Druid already pointed out that Fibrespeed aren't far away (announced by IWJ a little while ago). In the unlikely event that's not enough, others will be prepared to supply if it's commercially viable (just watch who you pick, especially BT).

"computing and IT graduates .. tend to gravitate towards London etc"

Many of them, but by no means all. Not all are money-seeking geeks, some surf or climb, some would appreciate an alternative to the M25 parking zone, especially if housing was sensibly priced. But if it's a 2 person household, where's the 2nd person going to work?

"ask yourself why we can't get enough doctors/talented nurses to come here."

Anglesey may have local issues too, but medical recruitment is a problem across the whole UK.

In summary: if it works for Newport, what stops it working for Anglesey?

kp said...

Medical recruitment is a problem in North Wales. Fact, period.

It is not an issue elsewhere.

Now examine the reasons why, think language, think education!

And then think, 'who cares, we live in North Wales, we have always lived off the largesse of others'.

I'm sick of your way of thinking!

Prometheuswrites said...

KP said: "Medical recruitment is a problem in North Wales. Fact, period.
It is not an issue elsewhere".

I have to disagree KP, as medical recruitment, (including dentists) is a problem in other places in the UK.

One factor is the cost of advertising in the trade journals. An advertisment for a nurse costs
about £5,000 for 2 weeks. If it isn't filled in that time it's another £5K - this adds up when there are several vacancies.

It's not as though there aren't more job hunters than jobs, especially up here, even in the specialised professions.

KP; you sound like you've got thoughts on what the problems are up here. That's good, as identifying the problems is the start to coming up with solutions and I'd like to read your take on these.

Saying people 'get what they deserve' sounds like there's someone (like a paternal figure) deciding who is worthy of rewards. (Do people deserve to get ill, or laid off, be born or die or win the lottery?)

I agree that actions have consequences and these can be teased out and adjusted to create improvements, however we are talking about long term social changes, like with education, which will take about 10 years to bring about change once we have the system sorted. (BTW we have the 'teacher of the year' from Anglesey so we are doing some things right).

So, please tell, 'your way of thinking'

Anonymous said...

It will gradually be realized by AA that its site at penrhos is not the saleable asset it imagines, but a very substantial contaminated liability.
Its site demolition, clearance and de-contamination costs will negate ant positive value !
Then, when they realise it, they'll probably try and give it to the Community.
Beware such an offering !

Photon said...

Yes, it's an interesting point about site contamination. I doubt if it's anywhere near as bad as a steel-making plant, but it's certainly worth reading this to realise how dangerous such sites can be - and how negligent councils have been and doubtless will continue to be in overseeing site clearances:


A crucial driver for the Corby scandal was the need to clear the site to make way for economic rejuvenation. This makes it directly relevant to our situation here on Anglesey.

The fine detail, very interesting if you have the time, of how utterly idiotic many of the council staff were at the time, you can find the whole judgement here:


Anonymous said...

Anglesey simply doesn't deserve this type of inward investment. It doesn't deserve to have decent broadband. It doesn't deserve to have investment money of any kind - way too parochial - way too negative - way too far behind the times...

;) said...

Anon 15.19

A bit like your post then...

... doesn't deserve mention

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