If you drive on the A7 in Noord-Holland near Middenmeer, you will see a large box of blocks looming up. It houses a so-called hyperscale, a huge data center from Microsoft. A little further, theres another one from Google. Plans to build five more data centers on the highway meet local resistance.
According to the industry, the data centers are needed because the world is digitizing at a rapid pace. This is all the more true now that there is a lot of work at home and video conferencing has become the most normal thing in the world. As a result, two interests collide: those of digital growth and impacts at the local level.
The main criticism? Data centers would inflate all the green energy generated, they would not contribute to the energy transition and ruin the landscape. Furthermore, the Data non Grata action group states that there is a shortage of water storage and that the cooling water discharged to surface water cannot be purified.
However, according to Stijn Grove of industry association Dutch Data Center Association, this kind of data centers are desperately needed. “All Microsoft services that people use in the Netherlands need to be online somewhere.”
Since 2016, the number of data centers has fallen from 206 to 189: small data centers, according to Grove, make room for larger ones. The number of square meters has increased by 150,000 m2 to 378,000. There are now three hyperscales. Larger data centers can handle energy more efficiently than smaller ones.
Tuesday and Thursday, the municipality of Hollands Kroon, in the north of North Holland, held additional council meetings on the construction of a new Microsoft data center. The province of Noord-Holland believes that the plans need to be adjusted and the region of West-Friesland does not agree with the zoning plan.
The case has led to great tensions in the coalition, described NRC. Two council members of coalition fractions VVD and Senioren Hollands Kroon (SHK) left.
“ We want to get the facts out of the table: what is the deal with the data center giants?”, says Lars Ruiter, who has been expelled from the VVD Group. “So far we have had very little information. We are not well informed and poorly included in the plans.”
Also benefit for the environment
Microsoft says in a response that the company is aware of the complexity surrounding the growth and concerns of the local community because the company is in contact with it. According to Microsoft, there is also an advantage for the environment: the number of jobs will increase as the data center expands. And its not built until the permit is granted, Microsoft says.
According to Lars Ruiter, there have been tension around this file for a long time “The coalition agreement stated that more space should be given to data centers. That came across a lot of resistance among farmers and residents.”
In April, the council decided to stop this plan. However, there was one but: the College wanted to give scope to ongoing initiatives, including the construction of the second data centre. “Thats not about a little bit: it goes from 50 to 230 hectares”, says Ruiter. He then wrote an opinion piece in the Noordhollands Dagblad. “That has put evil blood on my group.”
Jeff Leever, who stepped out of the Seniors group, argues that his questions about the application for destination were unsatisfactory. “The questions were on the site of the municipality for about two hours and were then removed.”
SHK-alderman Mary van Gent says in a mail available to DeccEit, that Leevers questions were “premature”. Also, because of his questions, “the coalition has exploded”. Van Gent fears the end of the coalition “if the press goes through this”. “I felt that this action had crossed a democratic line of separation of powers,” says Leever.
The alderman says that in the short term there were all kinds of moments planned when people would be updated on this subject. That is why, in her view, it was inconvenient to submit a whole list of questions just before that. It was nothing more than an advice, says Van Gent.
According to Erik Annaert, group chairman of VVD Hollands Kroon, the zoning plan allows a second data centre to be installed on that site. “We are not against construction,” he says.
The municipal authority was given the green light for the further development of the plans. However, more attention should be given to the appearance. For example, a row of trees along the A7 could be planted to hide the data centres from sight.