In a recent Podcast program with Carrie Goetz, host of the Careers for Women, Trades and Veterans in Tech and Data Centers Podcast, Fabiola Bordino, Head of Sustainability, Marketing and Communications for Start Campus, shared insights about the company’s groundbreaking data center development project in Sines, Portugal. Fabiola, a sustainability advocate, shared valuable insights about why Portugal emerged as a prime location for Start Campus’s innovative data center project — which emphasizes the use of circular economy best practices primarily for renewable energy and sustainability initiatives. The discussion shed light on the benefits of Portugal’s geographical position, renewable energy availability, and collaborative efforts with neighboring industries. Moreover, Fabiola emphasized the significance of sustainability, community involvement, and diverse perspectives in driving innovation within the data center industry.
Portugal: The Ideal Data Center Destination
Fabiola began the discussion by explaining why Portugal stood out as an ideal location for Start Campus’s data center project. Several factors influenced the decision, including the country’s strategic geographic location at the Western edge of Europe, access to multiple renewable power sources, and availability of cooling resources. Fabiola highlighted how Portugal serves as a gateway to Europe, offering connectivity to Africa, South America, and North America through a number of subsea cables that land in Portugal. Additionally, Portugal boasts abundant renewable energy capabilities, essential for operating an energy-intensive infrastructure like a data center. And, by utilizing ocean water for cooling, the project maximizes resource efficiency and minimizes environmental impact.
The Four Pillars of Sustainability
During the conversation, Fabiola also shared Start Campus’s vision for data center sustainability, which is based on four pillars:
- The Planet – Having a holistic approach to construction allows companies to plan for greener initiatives as the project progresses, minimizing stress on the environment. Fabiola stated this can include acquiring greener materials before construction begins and creating carbon sinks within the ecosystem.
- The Community – Community outreach and involvement with a project cultivates ingenuity. Fabiola encouraged viewing the whole spectrum of how companies can give back to their communities and let their voices be heard, potentially leading to project improvements.
- The Industry – By promoting out-of-the-box thinking and sharing those ideas within the industry, new standards for sustainability can be created and nurtured — setting the bar higher and higher as the industry grows.
- The Company – Encouraging greener initiatives for the company, including staff and partnerships.
By emphasizing the importance of considering the planet, communities, industry, and the company itself, Fabiola shared the importance of implementing sustainable practices during the construction phase, fostering community engagement, and driving innovation within the industry. Companies can create a positive impact on the environment, society, and their own organization by embracing the four pillars of sustainability.
Empowering Communities and Fostering Innovation
Community involvement was another key topic discussed on the program. Fabiola acknowledged the challenges faced by the data center industry when it comes to community acceptance, citing the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) mindset. To overcome this, Start Campus took a proactive approach, engaging with the local community from the early stages of their project. By seeking input and understanding community expectations, they were able to align their efforts with the community’s needs. Initiatives like the GAMMA platform, which funds impactful projects within the region, and partnering with local universities, which provides education and training opportunities, exemplify their commitment to community empowerment and fostering innovation.
Thinking Outside the Box and Collaboration
Throughout the podcast discussion, Fabiola stressed the importance of thinking outside the box and fostering collaboration within and beyond the data center industry. For example, by breaking down silos and encouraging diverse perspectives, the industry can achieve greater innovation. Examples of collaborative efforts with neighboring industries were also discussed. Fabiola highlighted Start Campus’s partnership with an LNG plant to exchange cooling resources. This symbiotic relationship demonstrates how different sectors can contribute to each other’s sustainability goals and drive mutually beneficial outcomes.
Encouragement for the Future
As the interview concluded, Fabiola offered words of wisdom for aspiring individuals, especially young women, interested in sustainability and the data center industry. She encouraged them not to be discouraged by challenges and emphasized the importance of persistence, research, and surrounding oneself with the right people. Fabiola emphasized that even though the data center industry has traditionally been male-dominated, positive changes are occurring, and the contributions of women bring fresh perspectives and opportunities for innovation.
The discussion between Carrie Goetz and Fabiola Bordino highlighted Portugal’s emergence as a sustainable data center hub and with examples of industry collaboration. The discussion highlighted the strategic advantages of Portugal, the significance of sustainability, and the need for community involvement. Moreover, the discussion emphasized the importance of diverse perspectives, collaborative efforts, and continuous learning for driving innovation within the data center industry. As Portugal pioneers sustainable practices and fosters collaboration, it sets an inspiring example for the future of data centers worldwide.