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Google will build a data center next to an aging power plant

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — In 2015, the American energy company Xcel Energy decided to decommission two 800 MW coal-fired power units at its Sherburne County Generating Plant thermal power plant in Cherburn, Minnesota.

The solution is part of the company’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2030.

For almost four decades, Sherko, as locals call this station, burned coal and paid taxes. The station emits more greenhouse gases than anything else in Minnesota, but also covers 75% of Becker’s tax base. Sherburne County Generating Plant is the largest of all Xcel Energy’s energy assets. Its three power units have a total installed electric capacity of 2222 MW – enough to provide energy for 2.6 million homes.

Xcel Energy Inc. plans to decommission the station in stages over the next decade, and the city, located about 50 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis, seemed to have few options for replacing the station.

And then Google came to the company, which stated that it wanted to place a data center near the aging station. At the same time, the company will need as much energy as a city with a population of 600,000 would have sufficed.

“We will continue to work hard to demonstrate that Becker is the right home for this project, and we are committed to providing reliable, renewable and affordable energy that helps drive significant business growth,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy.

Xcel Energy has negotiated agreements with Google affiliates, and has consulted with the State Department of Employment and Economic Development, as well as Sherburne County and Becker, according to a letter from Excel to the Minnesota Utilities Commission.

The letter contains a request to the state to approve the relevant contracts and “other rates, terms and tariff revision” by the summer.

“We are pleased that Minnesota is considering placing such a large project that has the potential to generate capital investments of $ 600 million and, according to the Ministry of Employment and Economic Development of Minnesota, will create about 2,000 jobs,” Clark said in a statement.

In exchange for a promise to provide residents with jobs, Google will be exempted from local and county taxes for a period of two decades, which will be at least $ 14 million, according to Bloomberg. While the data center will run on fossil-fueled electricity, Google will buy emission quotas from wind energy suppliers in South Dakota. Xcel also provides Google with an initial 10-year discount on its electricity bill, which essentially means other utility consumers will help subsidize that bill.

This is not the first time Google has deployed its facilities near a coal-fired power plant. In 2016, she opened a data center on the site of a former coal-fired power plant in Alabama, receiving more than $ 80 million in tax benefits and an undisclosed discount on electricity.

The closure of local coal-fired power plants owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) left the region with a complex system of high-voltage lines, many of which Google used to power the new building. Google also stated that the data center will only use renewable energy, without specifying which sources will be involved.

By 2017, Google is preparing for a massive expansion of the infrastructure. Over the next two years, she will spend about $ 22 billion to open new data centers throughout the United States.

Google also wants to build on its reputation as the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. Ten years ago, the company embarked on a renewable energy path when Larry Page, then Google’s CEO, issued a memo urging the company to become carbon neutral. (Google is far ahead of cloud computing leader Amazon.com Inc. on this front. Amazon says it expects to become carbon neutral by 2040. Google says it reached zero emissions in 2017).

Technology companies were the largest consumers of renewable energy emissions loans last year, signing contracts to buy 6,400 megawatts of solar and wind energy, according to BloombergNEF. Google accounts for about 2,700 MW of carbon credits from Facebook Inc. – 1100 MW.

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