Google Houses New Data Center in Repurposed Tenn. Plant

Google will invest $600 million in the Montgomery County, Tenn., facility. The site will house new technologies the company is testing.

Google data center

Google has selected an unfinished semiconductor manufacturing facility in Montgomery County, Tenn., to be the home of its 15th global data center. The company will reuse and repurpose as much of the existing infrastructure from the facility (originally built for polysilicon supplier Hemlock Semiconductor) as it can for its new data center and recycle what it doesn't need.

"Based on our assessments, this site will be able to house new technologies we're currently testing in research and development, which would make this data center the most technologically advanced in the world," Joe Kava, Google's vice president of data center operations, wrote in a recent blog post.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will provide electricity for the data center. Google will work with TVA in finding new sources of renewable energy for the site and to bring that power to TVA's electric grid. Eventually, the goal is to power the facility entirely through renewable energy sources like its upcoming $700 facility in Eemshaven, Netherlands, is designed to do from day one.

According to Kava, Google will invest around $600 million in the Tennessee data center and will engage with county and city officials in Montgomery County to launch a community grants program focused on clean energy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and access to the Internet.

The new data center will be Google's eighth in the United States and 15th globally. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to build data center No. 14 at the site of a former coal-fired power-generation plant in Alabama's Jackson County. As with the just-announced data center, Google is reusing and repurposing as much of the existing infrastructure as it can in its $600 million Alabama data center.

The company has said it will attempt to use as much as possible of the decades-old transmission lines at the plant to bring renewable energy from multiple new sources in the region. The TVA and Google are working jointly to find new renewable energy projects for the Alabama site as well.

Google's choice of existing facilities to build its new data centers is no coincidence. The company has said it is committed to reducing its global data center carbon footprint as much as possible and has been trying to reuse and repurpose buildings and electrical infrastructure where possible, instead of starting from scratch for each venture. In addition to the data centers that are coming up in Alabama and Tennessee, Google's data center in Hamina, Finland, is another example of a facility built on top of existing infrastructure—in this case an old paper mill.

In addition to reusing existing facilities and renewable energy, Google has employed a variety of other measures to minimize the environmental impact of operating its massive data centers. Many of them, for instance, use gray water and air for cooling purposes.

All of its data centers are also equipped with energy-efficient servers and neural-networking technology that the company said is designed to squeeze the most out of every watt of energy that is consumed in operating the facilities. The company has previously noted that its data centers are now able to extract about 3.5 times more computing power from the same amount of energy, as it was able to five years ago because of innovations in server design and cooling technologies.

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.