Google builds out its data center estate, with added solar power

New four-hectare solar panel installation is Google's first at a data center site.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director
Petmal, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Google is building a new €250m data center in Belgium, taking its total investment in the country to over €1bn.

The advertising-to-cloud-computing giant opened its first European data center in Belgium back in 2009, and the new building will be its third on the same site. The new building in Saint-Ghislain is due to be completed and operational by mid-2019. Google uses its data centers to deliver a wide range of online services; such as Google Cloud, search, Gmail, Maps and others.

The site is also home to a new €3m solar plant, which will feature 10,665 photovoltaic panels and will generate 2.9 Gigawatt hour of energy every year, and covers four hectares of land in the data center. Google said this is the first solar facility it has built on a data center site.

Google said it expects to have reached its target of 100 percent renewable energy for its global operations in 2017, including data centers and offices.

Joe Kava, Google's VP of global data centers, said the company is buying enough wind and solar electricity to account for every unit of electricity it uses. He said this makes the company the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy worldwide.

Powering data centers is an increasingly big challenge: for example Ireland recently said it now expects data centers to account for 15 percent of total energy demand by 2026, up from less than two percent in 2015. As a result, the big cloud computing companies are looking to find greener ways to power their facilities.

Google also pointed to job creation through its data centers expansion, noting that the Saint-Ghislain site currently employs around 350 people in full-time and contractor roles -- from computer technicians to electrical and mechanical engineers, to security, catering and facilities management.

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