Data centres take over Noord Holland countryside, and energy supplies

The interior of a server farm. Photo:
The interior of a server farm. Photo:

The construction of a second data centre by American tech company Microsoft in Noord Holland, and plans to build five more along the A7 motorway, is dividing local politicians and MPs and driving out farmers, an investigation by the NRC has shown.

Data centres do not only consume huge amounts of energy but also take up valuable and fertile arable land, local opponents of the scheme told the paper.

The arrival of the data centres, actively encouraged by local politicians because of the jobs they provide, had already led to protests from farmers organisation LTO which claims the centres drive up land prices.

Microsoft and Google already have one data centre each in the Wieringemeer polder, with the former alone using up half of the energy produced by the recently opened Prinses Ariane Windpark.

Hollands Kroon local council has given the go ahead to the new Microsoft project even though it does not have the required permits because it fits into local zoning plans, a spokesman told the NRC.

However, potato farmer and local LTO chair Henk Geerligs said it is the provincial authorities which must make the decisions because it is in charge of permits for large industrial complexes.

The data centres should be assessed at a provincial level, he said, because they have huge diesel-fired emergency energy power supplies.

Microsoft told in a statement that the situation regarding the permits is more nuanced than the NRC states.

Microsoft has begun preparatory work for the expansion of the data center, including work such as topsoil preparation, temporary drainage, and fencing,’ the statement said.This preparatory work is being done at our own expense and in consultation with the municipality. The actual construction will not start until all permits have been granted.’

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