Google to Build New Data Center on Former Alabama Power Plant Site

The Widows Creek facility, built on the former site of a coal-fired power generation plant, will be Google’s seventh in the U.S. and 14th globally.

Google Data Center

Google will build its 14th major data center on the site of the Widows Creek coal power plant in Jackson County, Alabama.

The plant is scheduled to be shut down and Google intends redevelop the site to erect its new $600 million data center. The company will reuse existing electric and other infrastructure where it makes sense.

“Data centers need a lot of infrastructure to run 24/7,” Patrick Gammons, Google’s senior manager of data center energy and location strategy said in a company blog. “There’s a lot of potential in redeveloping large industrial sites like former coal power plants.”

By repurposing existing infrastructure where it can, Google hopes to ensure that decades worth of electrical infrastructure investment won’t go to waste just because the site itself will be closed, Gammons said.

Google will attempt to use the Widows Creek facility’s multiple transmission lines to bring in renewable energy to its new data center. The company will work with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to scout for new renewable energy projects and to find ways to bring the power to the data center. “Ultimately, this contributes to our goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable energy,” Gammons said.

Google will equip the Alabama data center with energy-efficient servers, home-built data center cooling technologies and neural networks designed to get the most effort out of every watt of energy consumed by the data center. “Compared to five years ago, we now get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy,” Gammons said.

Construction on the data center is expected to begin in 2016. When complete the new facility is expected to bring about 80 to 100 ‘high paying’ jobs to the area, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said.

Google has been spending a lot of money in recent years trying to bring renewable energy to all of its data centers globally. Earlier this year the company entered into a long-term agreement with NextEra Energy Resources to bring wind energy to its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters. The agreement calls on NextEra to install 24 new wind turbines that together will generate an estimated 43 megawatts of energy for Google’s data center in the region, starting next year.

The company is also building what it has described as a $700 million hyper energy-efficient data center in Eemshaven in the Netherlands. The data center is scheduled to open in 2016 and will be powered by fully renewable energy sources from the first day.

Google has said the data center will use cool air and gray water to cool its data center servers and use wind energy to power its operations. The company has committed to buying the next 10 years of output from a new wind farm that is currently being built near its Eemshaven facility. The company has plans to build three similar facilities in Ireland, Dublin and Belgium.

According to Gammons, Google has become the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world, accounting for over 1.5 percent of the entire wind power installed capacity in the United States.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the name of the power generation plant site where where Google will build its new data center.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.