Bullets or videos on mobile? This is the debate that has arisen in Norway after learning of the complaints from the ammunition manufacturer Nammo, one of the largest in Europe. Expansion plans at its plant in Raufoss, in the center of the country, to cope with the increasingly demanded manufacture of projectiles for Ukraine, are threatened by the construction of a data center for the Chinese-owned video application TikTok, which will exhaust the electrical capacity of the region. “Our future growth is challenged by the storage of cat videos,” laments Morten Brandtzæg, chief executive of the company that is co-owned by the Norwegian government, to Financial Times .
Norwegian data center company Green Mountain announced a deal with the popular app earlier this month. To accommodate TikTok’s growing data storage needs in Europe, the company will build the country’s largest data center in Hamar, about 30 kilometers from Raufoss and separated by the Mjøsa River. The plant can have a capacity of up to 150 megawatts, consuming a maximum of about 1.3 terawatt hours (TWh) or just under 1% of Norway’s total electricity consumption last year, according to local media estimates. The first of the five planned buildings (TikTok will occupy three) will be finished in November of this year.
The region’s electricity grid does not have the capacity to meet the demand of TikTok and that of the ammunition manufacturer Nammo
Although the project will be a “star example” of the “green standard”, says Green Mountain director Svein Atle Hagaseth, the construction has raised eyebrows in the industrial sector. “Using huge amounts of Norwegian renewable energy in a handful of workplaces to produce Chinese-owned dance videos is crazy,” Industri Energi union leader Frode Alfheim told Norwegian business outlet E24. “It is a scandalous waste of electrical energy that torpedoes industry, businesses and people throughout the region. It is Norwegian energy policy at its most absurd”, he adds. Green Mountain estimates that it will create 350 jobs in the operational phase and up to 8,300 during construction.
The Nordic country, like its neighbors, attracts data centers because of its lower electricity costs and a cold climate that reduces the use of cooling for equipment. Since it has a non-discriminatory energy allocation policy, the first person to request electricity gets it. Elvia, the local power company, confirmed that the power grid had no additional capacity after committing it to the data center. “If Nammo orders a larger supply, it will take time before capacity is available, as the transmission network must be strengthened,” a spokesman for the energy company estimated to Bloomberg. The task falls to grid operator Statnett, which predicts a national power deficit by 2027.
That production here can keep up with the now massive demand is obviously a matter of national security.”
For the director of Nammo, one of only four companies in the Atlantic Alliance that manufactures rocket engines for air defense, the threat goes beyond his plant, which also produces missile launchers. “It could be a disaster for the industry, weakening defense capabilities and damaging Norway’s reputation in NATO,” Brandtzæg writes in the Aftenposten. The company has seen orders for artillery shells increase by 15 in the past year to meet the demand for ammunition from Alliance members, who have shipped significant amounts of weapons to Ukraine.
The country invaded by Russia fires some 200,000 cartridges a month, eight times more than what the European industry is currently capable of producing. Kyiv would like to double that number to contain the advance of Russian troops, which according to estimates today use 50,000 artillery shells a day. The European Union plans to invest 2,000 million euros to send a million howitzers to Volodimir Zelenski in the next year.
“That production here can keep up with the now massive demand is obviously a matter of national security,” laments Brandtzæg, who does not rule out that it was not a coincidence that a company originating in China, a country allied to Vladimir Putin, is an obstacle in the arrival of more bullets and shells for Ukraine.