Microsoft has finally received construction permission for a new data center in the Hollands Kroon area in the north of the Netherlands, after a protracted permitting process.

This week the North Sea Canal Area Environment Agency (OD NZKG) granted the final environmental permit for the construction and operation of Microsoft’s AMS13/14 data center located at Cultuurweg 11 in Middenmeer (Het Venster).

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The process for AMS13 and AMS14 has been a protracted one, and construction had already begun. The Hollands Kroon government previously granted Microsoft an environmental permit to begin construction work on a new data center in 2021, close to where the company already has an existing facility.

However, the province of Noord-Holland then ruled the municipality was not authorized to grant the permit and launched enforcement procedures against Microsoft for ‘operating without a permit.’

OD NZKG then issued a ‘tolerance decision’ allowing Microsoft to continue work ‘in anticipation of the final permit, but at the company's own risk.’

“In November 2022, the Council of State ruled that the nitrogen released during the construction of projects cannot be disregarded. This ended the so-called building exemption,” the OD NZKG said this week. “For all companies, and therefore also for Microsoft, this meant that the nitrogen load for the surrounding nature had to be assessed for each construction project. The assessment of this now shows that the construction and use of the data center have no negative consequences for the Natura 2000 areas.”

According to the permit, the data center site is set on 14.4 hectares located in the Agriport Business Park. The development consists of two independent 36MW buildings, named AMS13 and AMS1, each with five data halls. The cooling system design is ‘based on a direct air system with an evaporation system,’ with an estimated PUE of 1.18. The site is set to include 40 3.3MW backup generators and two 1MW backup generators.

The final permit will be available for inspection and appeal for six weeks from 20 April on the OD NZKG website.

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Data centers in the Netherlands, especially hyperscale facilities, are facing fierce opposition in the country. In 2022 the national government imposed a nine-month ban on hyperscale data centers before introducing more stringent rules in the summer; while Hollands-Kroon was one of only two areas exempt, the local council called for its own pause in data center building in the area.

Another giant proposal, Facebook's bid to build in Zeewolde, was also allowed under the ban - but has also been canceled after local protests.

Microsoft's activities in Middenmeer have faced long-running opposition from farmers over their water consumption. Microsoft’s existing data center reportedly consumed 84 million liters (84,000 cubic meters) of water during 2021, a year when heat caused severe water shortages.

Google also has facilities in the Hollands Kroon area of the Netherlands. Another data center proposed in Appingedam, in the municipality of Eemsdelta, was seemingly also paused by the government's hyperscale moratorium. An unnamed developer – with local press suggesting Google – was aiming to build two 54,000 sqm facilities offering 200MW across 20 hectares in the Fivelpoort business park.

Last year then saw the search and cloud giant acquire twenty hectares of land on the Westpoort industrial estate, in the municipality of Groningen.

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