Data centers are the backbone of the internet, housing the systems and equipment that make our connected world possible. We opened our first European data center in Belgium back in 2009, and now we’re announcing plans to build a third building on the same site. We’re also announcing a new solar plant—the first solar facility we’ve built on a data center facility site.
We will invest approximately EUR 250 million to build the additional data center building in Saint-Ghislain, bringing our total investment in Belgium to EUR 1 billion. It’s due to be completed and operational by mid-2019.
The new solar plant, which is already up and running, represents a previous investment of EUR 3 million. And we’ve learned that it is the second-largest solar plant in the region!
Reaching 100 percent renewable energy for global operations
The photovoltaic installations will feature 10,665 solar panels and will generate 2.9 Gigawatt hour of clean, reliable, renewable energy every year. Construction began in March 2017, using a local company to install the solar farm on four hectares of land in our data center. Ultimately, the solar project will contribute to a greener footprint on our data center campus, already one of the most energy-efficient sites globally.
It’s not the first time we’ve acted on our sustainability goals in Belgium. Saint-Ghislain was the very first Google data center to run entirely without refrigeration, using instead an advanced cooling system that draws grey water from the nearby industrial canal.
It also fits in with our wider goal of ensuring a positive impact on the environment. We are calculating our final energy bills and expect that we reached our target of 100 percent renewable energy for our global operations in 2017, including data centers and offices. This means we’re directly buying enough wind and solar electricity to account for every unit of electricity we use—and it makes Google the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy worldwide.
Enhancing connectivity and creating jobs in Europe
Demand for Google services grows every day, and the steady expansion of our network across Europe reflects this. Along with Saint-Ghislain, we have data centers at Eemshaven in The Netherlands, Dublin, Ireland, and Hamina in Finland. Each investment enhances connectivity.
Data centers also benefit communities through job creation. The whole Saint-Ghislain site currently employs around 350 people in full-time and contractor roles—from computer technicians to electrical and mechanical engineers, to security, catering and facilities management. With this investment of EUR 250 million, we’ll create more construction jobs, and more full-time roles in Google once the third building is complete and operational.
Belgium: a digital frontrunner in Europe
Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium, joined us for an event this week announcing these projects, where he celebrated Belgium’s investment and ambitions as a digital pioneer. "The digital world is constantly changing, and Belgium is becoming more and more attractive for big investors like Google. This new investment is excellent news for the Walloon region and Belgium in terms of job creation."
We’re grateful to the local and national government, local suppliers and community for their continued support of our data center presence in Belgium. We hope it contributes to make Belgium a digital frontrunner in Europe, creating jobs, skills development and economic opportunities.