The small town of Zeewolde has granted Meta a permit to build the largest data center in Netherlands, for its Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp applications.
The facility, which will potentially have five halls and use 200MW of electrical power, was approved on Thursday by a meeting of the council of the 22,000 population town, 50km East of Amsterdam in the province of Flevoland. The data center will be built on 166 hectares (410 acres) of farmland, currently known as Trekkersveld IV (Tractor field IV).
The role of data centers has been controversial in the Netherlands, with opponents claiming they soak up available renewable energy and land, and create very few jobs in return.
"Hyperscale data centers place an unreasonably large demand on the available renewable energy in relationship to their societal or economic value. We will be sharpening the national coordination and admissions criteria for licensing," said a statement from the coalition government published the day before Zeewolde approved the Meta project, effectively reversing the policy of the previous government. The Zeewolde data center will create 400 jobs.
The province of Flevoland currently has a ban on new data center constructions, pending a study into their impact on the community. However, Meta/Facebook appears to have evaded this ban. The ban is currently in force, having been enacted in June, but Facebook got its application in February. At that time Meta, then known as Facebook, concealed its identity.
Across the country, data centers use around three percent of electricity, expected to rise to 10 percent by 2030, according to the Dutch Data Centre Association. This has caused concerns, resulting in other actions to limit data center building.
In 2019, Amsterdam imposed a moratorium on new data center projects in the main metropolitan areas, before allowing new projects again, in specific areas and within certain limits. Among other things, the new rules are designed to move new projects further from town, and make urban data centers use space and energy better.
Zeewolde councilor Hendrik Visser (for the VVD party) said data centers cannot be avoided, and the benefits outweighed the drawbacks, according to Reuters: "To satisfy our online needs, data centers are simply necessary. They have to go somewhere, and it's probably not imprudent to build them here in Western Europe, centralized under our laws."