A $600 million data center project from Google in the city of Becker, Minnesota, is still yet to begin after more than two years after it was first revealed. The companies involved, however, say the project hasn’t been abandoned.
First reported in 2019, Google was reportedly looking at building a $600 million data center on land in Sherburne County next to a power station.
The proposed facility in Becker city was outed in a regulatory filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission by Xcel Energy; the search giant planned to build the 375,000 square foot data center on roughly 300 acres of land owned by Xcel Energy near Sherburne county’s Generating Station, the largest coal-burning plant in the Upper Midwest.
However, the Star Tribune reports that in a recent Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Xcel said Google is yet to buy the land from Xcel. Google's option to buy roughly 300 acres of Xcel land expires at the end of this year, along with a separate "notice to proceed" agreement between the companies.
"Is there great concern that it is not going to move forward?" Commissioner Joe Sullivan asked.
"I can't say there isn't concern. I think we are still hopeful," Matt Harris, Xcel's lead assistant general counsel, replied. He added that the pandemic had affected the project's timeline.
Sherburne County and the city of Becker have both granted tax breaks on the project. Xcel plans to provide 300MW of energy from two wind farms to power the facility. The county has also paid $20.5 million for infrastructure improvements to a Becker industrial park that would host the data center. Most of the work involves extending water and sewer mains, with work due to take place in 2022 and 2023.
Xcel, in a statement Wednesday, said "projects of this scale and complexity take time to come together." The data center "has lengthy evaluation, pre-development, and development timelines. We continue to work closely with the project team and stakeholders."
Google, in a statement, said it "is considering acquiring property in Becker, MN, and while we do not have a confirmed timeline for development for the site, we want to ensure that we have the option to further grow should our business demand it."
It noted its other projects “followed periods of planning and construction and were not completed overnight.”
“With that in mind, we're continuing to work closely with local stakeholders in Becker,” the company said.
Marie Pflipsen, Becker's community development director, said the city has had monthly communications - on average - with Google. "We are not concerned about the future of the project," she said. "This is a long project with a lot of technical pieces to it."
The city has not yet signed a development agreement with Google, she said, as that would come after the company purchases land from Xcel.