Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Google building data centers on old TVA power plant sites

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, U.S. Rep Mo Brooks and Google and local officials ceremonially break ground on the data center.
(Chattanooga Times Free Press photo by Dave Flessner)
In an apt symbol of rural economic revitalization, Google broke ground on a data center in the northeast Alabama town of Bridgeport (pop. 2,400) on the former site of a Tennessee Valley Authority coal-fired power plant. Google also announced a $100,000 grant to the Jackson County School District for local science, technology, engineering and math programs. "The Google complex, which is expected to employ from 75 to 100 people there once in full operation, was heralded by Alabama officials Monday for turning an economic hardship to a potential economic windfall," Dave Flessner reports for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The 360-acre data center, only the eighth in the U.S. and the 14th worldwide, will be built on the 2,000-acre site of the Widows Creek Fossil Plant. The plant, which closed in 2015 after 63 years, brought hundreds of jobs both directly and indirectly in its heyday. Google may buy more of the Widows Creek land, which TVA is still cleaning up.

The Bridgeport facility and a similar one on a former TVA site in Clarksville, Tenn., northwest of Nashville, are aimed at helping meet growing demand in the Southeast for internet services such as cloud-based programs, browser searches and video streaming. Widows Creek, on the Tennessee River, was an attractive location because of its plentiful land, water, local labor, and the availability of green energy: Google wants to power the plant with only clean energy, and the TVA promised to provide it with electricity generated with renewable solar, wind or hydroelectric energy.

Bridgeport Mayor David Hughes told Flessner that "Having Google in our area will usher in a new era for our community . . . Ultimately, Google will help us recruit other high-tech companies to our area."

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