Monday 17 January 2022

Small Dutch town to decide on massive Facebook data centre

An artist’s impression of the site. Illustration: Gemeente Zeewolde

Officials in the small Dutch town of Zeewolde will decide later today if Facebook parent company Meta can build a massive data centre on farmland within its boundaries.

The plan involves building up to five huge sheds on a 166 hectare site in Flevoland – from which Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp can serve users all over Europe.

The municipality’s 19 councillors will take the decision, closely watched by politicians in The Hague as well as environmental campaigners.

The Meta plan is mired in controversy, not least because of the amount of energy it will take to operate. Meta estimates the centre will require 1380 gigawatt hours of electricity to run – the equivalent of a small city of 460,000 people.

Providing green energy for the project, as Meta has said it wants to do, will take 115 wind turbines – or around 10% of total wind production at the moment, energy expert Martien Visser of the Hanze hbo college, told broadcaster NOS.

Council officials say they plan to use the heat generated by the plants to provide heating for the town’s 22,000 residents – but major questions remain about the feasibility.

Officials also say the project will create 410 jobs and that the centre is proving a draw for other companies.

But opponents say that the 410 figure has been derived from ‘other similar situations elsewhere in the world’ and how they were derived is being kept secret, news website Nu.nl reported.

New cabinet

Other massive data centres are also on the way. Microsoft has been given the green light for a second centre in Wieringermeer, in Noord-Holland, and an unnamed company wants to build a third in Appingedam, in Groningen province.

The new government has pledged to remove decisions about giant data systems from local authorities and to issue the licences centrally, following calls for MPs for a national strategy.

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