As the world uses more and more cloud-based online services, the demand for huge data centers continues to grow. However, in one country, this is becoming a much bigger problem. Microsoft currently has one hyperscaler data center in the Netherlands. It is now building another, but the project has sparked some opposition from local farmers in the Netherlands.
Wired reports that hyperscaler data centers are typically 10,000 square feet or larger. While the Dutch government did institute rules in 2022 restricting the construction of such buildings in much of the country, the Microsoft project under construction is effectively exempted.
Another problem is the current nitrogen problem in the Netherlands. The country generates four times more nitrogen than other EU countries and is working to halve these emissions by 2030. However, Microsoft managed to obtain a “tolerance decision” from the local environmental agency, allowing construction of the data center to continue while the agency studies its possible nitrogen emissions. There’s no word yet on what the agency might do if it finds that Microsoft has exceeded its nitrogen limits.
All of this has many local farmers concerned about Microsoft’s impact in the region, including its use of large tracts of farmland and its environmental concerns.
Jeroen Candel, associate professor of food and agricultural policy at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: “There is a lot of criticism about how the landscape is changing, the Netherlands is a flat country and we cherish our grasslands and traditional polders [lowlands reclaimed from the sea]. ]”.
The addition of such data centers is likely to continue, especially as more and more servers are needed to handle the rise of artificial intelligence-based services, such as Microsoft’s AI chat search engine. The impact on the land and the overall environment will certainly have to be addressed, with the local population hoping to avoid major future problems before it is too late.