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A Microsoft data center in the Netherlands is generating environmental concerns

As the world uses more and more cloud-based online services, the need for huge data centers continues to grow as well. However, in one country, that's becoming more of a problem. Microsoft currently has one hyperscaler data center in the Netherlands. It's now in the middle of building another, but that project is getting some pushback from local Dutch farmers.

Wired reports that hyperscaler data centers are usually 10,000 square feet or more in size. While the Dutch government did put in rules in 2022 that restrict those kinds of buildings in much of the country, the under-construction Microsoft project was actually given an exemption.

Another concern is the Netherlands' current nitrogen issue. The country creates four times the amount of nitrogen compared to other EU countries, and there's an effort to reduce those emissions by half by 2030. However, Microsoft managed to get a “tolerance decision” from the local environment agency that allowed the data center to keep being built while the agency looks at its possible nitrogen emissions. There's no word on what the agency could do if it finds that Microsoft exceeds its nitrogen limits.

All of this has many local farmers getting concerned about Microsoft's impact in the area, both with it taking large parts of farmland and its environmental concerns.

“There's a lot of criticism about how the landscape is changing,” says Jeroen Candel, associate professor of food and agricultural policy at the Netherlands' Wageningen University. “The Netherlands is a flat country, and we cherish our meadows and our traditional polders [lowland reclaimed from the sea].”

The increase in these kinds of data centers will likely continue to grow, especially as more and more servers will be needed to address the rise of AI-based services like Microsoft's own Bing Chat. The impact on both the land and the overall environment will certainly have to be addressed, and hopefully before it's too late to avoid major issues in the future.

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