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Microsoft continues to build Noord-Holland data centre without a permit: NRC – DutchNews.nl

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The interior of a server farm, or data centre. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Microsoft’s data centre in the Wieringemeerpolder in the province of Noord-Holland is being expanded without all the necessary permits and farmers and locals fear that the work maybe finished without ever having been given the official green light, the NRC reported on Tuesday.

The software giant should have handed over data to the provincial environmental authority Omgevingsdienst a month ago, proving that the building work would produce close to zero nitrogen emissions, but has not yet done so.

Instead, work is continuing, despite a 2022 ruling by the Council of State which said Microsoft would only get permission if it could prove acceptable levels of nitrogen emissions.

The history of the new data centre, which includes its own high voltage substation, has been a checkered one. As the NRC reported earlier, Hollands Kroon, the council concerned, gave Microsoft permission to build the data centre when in reality permits for large projects are handled by the provincial authorities.

A year later, in 2021, Microsoft was given the nod by the province without having to hand over nitrogen data. Then came the Council of State ruling.

Farmers have complained about what they see as preferential treatment for Microsoft. ‘We are faced with ever stricter nitrogen rules,’ Henk Geerligs, chairman of the local branch of farmers’ organisation LTO, told the paper. ‘We are not allowed to put anything extra on our land while Microsoft has been building without permits for nearly a year,’ he said.

The provincial authorities could, in principle, force Microsoft to demolish the data centre but that is not something the LTO is aiming for, Geerligs said. ‘As farmers, we just want to be treated equally,’ he said.

Front of the queue

Opposition to the new data centre is not just centred around nitrogen emissions, Jan Meijles, spokesman for local campain group ‘Red de Wieringemeer’ (save the Wieringemeer) told the paper.

‘Lots of local businesses are waiting to be connected to the electricity network. But no one is building their own heavy duty substation like Microsoft. It is strange the province is allowing Microsoft to elbow itself to the front of the queue,’ he said.

Local councillor Lars Ruiter said his party Onafhankelijk Hollands Kroon is ‘very critical’ of the current situation. ‘I think it incomprehensible that the provincial authorities are tolerating the building of the data centre without the requisite permits, particularly at a time when housing projects are being cancelled because nitrogen emissions cannot be offset,’ Ruiter said.

Microsoft told the paper in a reaction that the company is ‘continually in talks’ with the province and local council to make sure that the company meets ‘all required laws and regulations at all phases of the development, construction and in day to day operations.’

Last year Facebook parent Meta agreed to stop preparations for a massive data centre near Zeewolde in Flevoland following a council majority against the plan.

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