In the Netherlands, the US company Meta has announced the establishment of the country’s largest data center in the Zeewolde Agricultural Municipality, refreshing the debate over the location of these giant energy-intensive infrastructure.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was perhaps unaware that plans to set up a large data center in the Gewold municipality in the Netherlands would become a national affair. On December 17, 2021, the city council voted in favor of allowing Meta to use a large piece of farmland, where the company plans to set up a giant data center called Tractor Field 4. But on December 21, questioned by concerned residents, the Dutch Senate blocked the practice and put the matter in the hands of the government.
For his part, Meta believes the city council vote is one “Positive results”, Though it remains “A lot more work needs to be done before the investment decision can be considered”. In other words, the American company is waiting to get all the necessary approvals and approvals before it is happy to start work. Meta promises a “Good neighbor” Zeewolde refers to the whole community, job creation, investment in the local economy and the free supply of waste heat generated by the data center to heat homes or municipal facilities. Municipal Councilor Egge Jan de Jonge thinks all of this will contain this data center “Positive impact on the whole region”.
Except that not everyone who lives in Gewold disagrees. Thus, 5,000 of them have signed a petition opposing the project and a Facebook group (!) Is very active in protesting against this company. Susan Shoppe, 61, was one of the leaders in the protest. He points out that while similar arguments often come up, not all opponents criticize the plan for the same reasons.
Equivalent to 1,300 Olympic basins of farmland
The first of these is about the size of this futuristic data center, which has been announced as the largest in the Netherlands. Tractor Field 4 covers an area of 166 hectares or more than 1,300 Olympic swimming pools. “It’s too big for a small town” With more than 200 data centers already established in the country, some are worried about the destruction of good-yielding farmland. For some more, the energy consumption of the infrastructure is a concern. This is estimated at 1,380 GWh, which is double the consumption of 22,000 citizens of the municipality. “It’s disproportionate. It’s all about giving false information, cat videos, ideas, preferences and conspiracy theories.”, Caricature of enemies Quoted by Wire.
If the Netherlands attracts the heroes of the World Wide Web, it is because Amsterdam is home to an important Internet transfer point and, like the United Kingdom or Germany, that country has an attractive policy for installation. These massive infrastructures on which the European Internet function depends. This is why a player like Microsoft opened its first Dutch Hyperscale Center in 2015. Today, the debate over these places is becoming political and moving to the national level.
Politically turned debate
Stijn Grove, managing director of the Dutch Data Center Association, said the arguments raised by the protesters, who put together some internet giants, were irrelevant. He reminded that if data centers use energy, it is indirectly because people spend time online and use the internet more. “Politicians complain, but they continue to use Facebook and Instagram to get their news across. (…) By complaining about data centers, you are basically complaining about email usage, internet usage, cloud usage. “If you actually look at the power consumption of data centers in the Netherlands, it’s 0.32%, so it’s very low.”, Adds Stijn Grove, indicating that the actual energy consumption of such centers has not increased in ten years.
This is not the first time the establishment of data centers has entered the debate in the Netherlands. In 2017, Microsoft’s infrastructure in Wieringermeer was accused of absorbing all the green energy generated by a nearby wind turbine of 82 wind turbines. It is noteworthy that at that time the Dutch used only 25 to 35% of the energy consumed by the data centers located in the country. Microsoft recently began building two new 50- and 16-hectare centers in the Hollands Crown.