The Dutch think it is much better to grow food to sell people, particularly those in the UK who have been forced to live off turnips since leaving the EU. Microsoft thinks the land should be used to get around European data protection laws and so that it can export piles of European cash to Redmond.
There are around 200 data centers in the Netherlands, most renting out server space to several companies. But since 2015, the country has also witnessed the arrival of enormous “hyperscalers,” buildings that generally span at least 10,000 square feet and are set up to service a single (usually American) tech giant.
Holland, however, has a nitrogen crisis and produces four times more nitrogen than the average across the EU. The Dutch government has pledged to halve emissions by 2030, partly by persuading farmers to reduce their livestock herds or leave the industry altogether.
Farmers have responded with protests, blockading roads with tractors and manure and dumping slurry outside the nature minister’s home, as you do.
Ironically though, it is the nitrogen which is causing Vole the most worries. Most of its data centre building projects have been stalled by the local environment agency where it has to prove that it is not going to increase more nitrogen. However, some farmers claim that Vole is building anyway while their projects are still put on hold.
Microsoft’s EMEA data centre lead Eoin Doherty,, denies the company is building in North Holland without permission. He says the company was issued a “tolerance decision” by the local authority. This means Microsoft can continue building at its own risk while it waits for a final permit.
This move is getting riskier as the farmers appear to have the upper hand. The Farmer Citizen Movement (BBB), did so well in recent provincial elections, it became the joint-largest party in the Dutch Senate.
One of its leaders had made it clear that it thinks the data centre is an unnecessary waste of fertile soil to put the data centre boxes here.
Farmer groups argue that if anyone is allowed to use nitrogen it should be them.