Meta halts plans for mega new data center after local backlash

Data center
(Image credit: Future)

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has halted its plans for a new data center in the Netherlands after intense opposition from the government. 

"We strongly believe in being good neighbours, so from day one of this journey we stressed a good fit between our project and the community is foremost among the criteria we consider when initiating and continuing our development processes," said a company spokesperson. 

"Given the current circumstances, we have decided to pause our development efforts in Zeewolde."

The "current circumstances" in question are local, provincial, and national governments raising a series of concerns over the massive project, which would have served much of continental Europe. 

The issues have been bubbling along for some time. Back in January, Wired interviewed local residents of Zeewolde, a small town, who did not seem happy. Meta, they said, would be allowed to siphon off considerable amounts of renewable energy to power the new data center.

Hungry, hungry data centres 

While the "cloud" has become a ubiquitous computing term, and has an almost magical quality for some people, the reality is that all of this off-device computing comes at a cost: huge data centers, often located in provincial locations, that consume huge amounts of power. 

To compound the issue, the Netherlands is home to a lot of data centers, managed by a huge array of different companies in industries ranging from web hosting to VPN, cloud storage and more, largely because it has such a robust renewables energy market.

Meta's data center, known as Tractor Field 4, would have spanned 166 hectares and gobbled up 1,380 gigawatt-hours of energy a year, which is roughly equivalent to the energy used by 22,000 residents.

In February, the Dutch government announced a nine-month ban on building new data centers larger than 10 hectares (which gives you some sense of how big Meta's planned centre was).

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.