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Hyperscale data centres under fire in Holland

Written by Tue 22 Feb 2022

The Netherlands is one of the top data centre markets for European investment, with expected investments of $4.5 billion USD through 2026. However, as hyperscale providers like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google look to expand their footprint in the region, they are increasingly met with protests by local grassroots organizations.

Recently, Microsoft was granted a permit to build a second facility in Hollands Kroon in the Northwest Netherlands, despite a number of local protests that were organized prior to the permit being granted. These protests focused on the potential for a negative environmental impact resulting from the project, as well as a lack of local consultation on the data centre.

Now that the permit to build has been granted, the Agriculture and Horticulture Organization (LTO) has filed an appeal to halt construction on the data centre. The LTO boasts 35,000 members, many of them in the agricultural sector of the country.

A recent press release from LTO Noord noted that the agricultural sector in Hollands Kroon needs the land granted to Microsoft to support local agriculture. “Recent research by the University of Amsterdam, carried out on behalf of the municipality and LTO Noord, shows that the agricultural sector in Hollands Kroon cannot spare a hectare.”

“Further expansion of the area around Agriport is, therefore, an undesirable development for the agricultural sector throughout Hollands Kroon.”

Wim Mostert, chairman of LTO Noord Hollands Kroon, noted, “It goes against the interests of our members. Permits are easily granted, without clear frameworks being set in advance and the consequences properly weighed up. Matters such as cooling water consumption, nitrogen emissions, and the scale of the developments are of concern for the agricultural sector in the area.”

There have also been a number of community protests around Meta’s plans to build a hyperscale data centre near Zeewolde, known as Tractor Field 4. This project will be the largest facility in the area, covering 166 hectares and consuming 1,380 gWh of energy per year.

Susan Schaap, a local resident, has become one of the project’s most vocal opponents, stating that the planned facility is “too big for a small town like Zeewolde.”

“There are 200 data centres in the Netherlands already,” she went on, noting that providing an enormous land grant to a single hyperscale provider isn’t fair.

Additionally, there is a debate over who has the authority to grant permits for data centre construction: the local municipality, or the larger provincial government. Until these responsibilitiies are clarified, protests against new data centre construction permits are likely to continue.

Written by Tue 22 Feb 2022

Tags:

data centre economy Holland hyperscale Netherlands
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