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30 Mar 2022

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Meta forced to abandon plans for hyperscale data center in the Netherlands because of public protests

The data center was supposed to be one of the largest ever built by Meta. Meta has, however, had to abandon plans for a new hyperscale data center in the small Dutch town of Zeewolde after protests (in Dutch) from local activists.

A spokesperson for Meta said: "In 2019, Meta was invited by the local, provincial and national government to consider a data center investment in The Netherlands - and in Zeewolde in particular. Since then, Meta has envisioned a strong collaboration, with jobs and social benefits, for the region. As we want to be a good neighbor, we have emphasized from day one that a good match between our project and the people in Zeewolde is the most important criterion in our plans. Given the current circumstances, we have decided to pause our developments in Zeewold. We will continue to work closely with the municipality in determining our next steps.”

Wrong location

To local activists, the Meta facility was all wrong. It would use a very large plot of agricultural land, they feared it would put pressure on the local water supply, the data center in their opinion would ruin the natural environment and they did not believe Meta's promise of new jobs.

Heat networks

The situation wasn't as black and white to many data center experts in The Netherlands as it was to local city officials or activists. To them, the major issue was that the location was wrong because in a rural area there is no option to integrate the data center into a heat network so that the excess heat of the data center might be sold to other users for re-use.

They also feared that even if there had been an optional integration into a heat network the architecture Meta is using for its data centers is not optimized for heat re-use. At the same time, local specialists admit that they have no detailed information on the design Meta was planning to use for this particular data center. However, because of a lack of transparency, they fear that any excess heat coming out of the data center would have an average temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius, while local discussions on the re-use of excess heat of data centers is these days much more centered around water of 50 to 60 degrees Celsius, which means the water is of a temperature that makes it possible to use it directly and without any cascading for heating any adjacent building.

The Netherlands has one of the most digital economies in the world. The country is already home to hundreds of data centers that support both the local economy and the digital economies of other European countries. However, by failing to engage local residents in the planning and permitting process from the beginning, Zeewolde's municipal government was unable to secure a multibillion-euro investment that could have stimulated the digital economy.

Photo credit: Daria from

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