Google Said to Be Planning $600M Wind Powered Data Center in the Land of Lakes

Small town outside of Minneapolis may soon see a gargantuan server farm go up, powered by 300MW of wind power

Christine Hall

January 16, 2019

3 Min Read
google data center network room council bluffs
Network room at a Google data center in Council Bluffs, IowaAlphabet/Google

Google's parent company Alphabet is planning to build a $600 million data center in Minnesota, according to a regulatory filing last week by Excel Energy, the state's largest energy company.

An initial report from Minnesota Public Radio, which broke the story, put the location of the planned data center in Becker, a town 46 miles northwest of Minneapolis with a population of about 4,500. But Becker Mayor Tracy Bertram told the Associated Press that her town is only one of several locations under consideration. However, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said Google has already decided on the Becker site.

If the data center is built in Becker, it will be constructed on about 300 acres of land purchased from Excel, which is also on-board to supply the 300MW data center with renewable energy, which according to news reports it will source from two large wind farms.

"By locating there, this project becomes part of the company's journey to mindfully transition a coal-plant environment into a less carbon-intensive, business-oriented area that creates new jobs, results in significant private capital investment in the state, and benefits all of the company's customers," MPR quoted Excel as saying in its filing. So far, Google has remained silent and hasn't answered any press inquiries.

Related:Google to Build €600M Data Center in Denmark

When the data center goes online, Google would immediately become one of Excel's five biggest customers.

The fact that Google is planning to build yet another major data center facility is not surprising. With its reliance on the internet for such core businesses as search, YouTube, Software-as-a-Service offerings such as Drive and Play, as well as Google Cloud Platform, the company is always building internet infrastructure somewhere. In the past 10 years, Google has built at least half a dozen data centers and is laying submarine cable to link Japan, Guam, and Australia. And that's not counting all the data center space it leases from specialist landlords: it signed at least three wholesale data center leases last year -- one in Salt Lake City and two in Chicago -- totaling close to 10MW in capacity, according to the latest market report by the commercial real estate brokerage North American Data Centers.

It's also not surprising that Google is contracting for a renewable energy source to run the facility. That's pretty much standard operating procedure for the company, which is the world’s biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy.

In addition to Minnesota, Google is eyeing a $600 million dollar data center build in New Albany, Ohio, where it would benefit from a 15-year tax credit that could be worth $43.5 million. It also recently announced a planned €600 million data center in Denmark.

Related:Cloud Giants Continue Pouring Billions Into Data Centers

The Minnesota data center should automatically qualify for a standard 20-year state sales tax exemption on "enterprise information technology equipment, software, and electricity used to operate the data centers," which is available to any new data center in the state with at least 25,000 square feet that spends at least $30 million within a 48 month period. According to the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development, the project will create about 2,000 construction jobs and provide about 50 full-time positions once it goes online.

About the Author(s)

Christine Hall

Freelance author

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001 she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and began covering IT full time in 2002, focusing on Linux and open source software. Since 2010 she's published and edited the website FOSS Force. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux.

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