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17 Feb 2022
The Netherlands temporarily bans the construction of new hyperscale data centers
In the Netherlands, the government has announced a temporary ban (in Dutch) on new hyperscale data centers. As a result of public outcry over land use and pressure on the power grid and water supply new hyperscale projects will face much stricter regulation. These new rules will take about nine months to develop. In the meantime, there will be no permits granted.
Amsterdam Internet Exchange
The Netherlands has a huge data center industry. Several hundred data centers can be found in areas such as Amsterdam where local and international data center companies have built facilities. The main reason for this is the proximity of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, which is the largest internet exchange in the world by traffic volume. Additionally, the country has a strong digital economy, supporting cloud and OTT applications in large parts of Europe.
The new regulations and building stop are controversial, however. A power issue is prevalent in Amsterdam, but not so much in other parts of the country, such as the high-tech region of Eindhoven. In a country like The Netherlands that has an abundance of water, water issues are also controversial.
One of the main issues some insiders have with the temporary ban is the possibility that hyperscalers could play a major role in the energy transition. In existing hyperscale projects, companies like Switch Datacenters are planning to use wind energy to power data centers. The infrastructure is designed in such a way that the data center will produce excess heat with a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius or more, so directly applicable to other applications like district heating systems for residential buildings. If this is done at scale, it might even be possible to turn off a coal- or gas-fired power plant.
Microsoft, Google, and many other well-known data center operators have large facilities in the Netherlands. A massive new facility proposed by Meta (Facebook) is highly controversial due to the amount of agricultural land it will take up.
Photo credit: Randy Fath
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