Google is building a $600 million data center on the grounds of a soon-to-close coal-fired power plant in northeastern Alabama. The project may create an iconic image of the shifts in the economy.
Near the banks of the Tennessee River will be a sprawling data center facility situated against a backdrop of towering but dormant smokestacks. Google said it plans to run the data center with renewable energy.
Google picked the site, operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, for its 14th global data center because it has what it needs: Ample power resources, including renewable energy sources, and plenty of water to help cool its systems.
The Widows Creek power plant, named for a creek that runs through the property, was built in the early 1950s and at its peak employed about 400 people. Today it has about 90 workers. It's scheduled to close this fall.
The Google data center is expected to create about 100 jobs, and Google may make an effort to try to hire some of the power plant workers, a TVA spokeswoman said. Google couldn't be reached for comment at deadline.
Patrick Gammons, a Google senior manager of data center energy and location strategy, said the company has been steadily improving the efficiency of its data centers. For example, it's using tools such as “advanced machine learning to squeeze more out of every watt of power we consume,” he wrote in a blog post. “Compared to five years ago, we now get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy.”
The TVA is shifting away from coal. It supplies energy to about 9 million people in seven southeastern states.