Google to Convert Alabama Fossil Plant into $600 Million Data Center

Officials have been trying to recruit a major data processing center since 2012, when the Legislature passed the Alabama Data Processing Center Economic Incentive Enhancement Act.

by Tim Omarzu, Chattanooga Times/Free Press / June 25, 2015

(TNS) — Google plans to build a $600 million data processing center here, adding 75 to 100 jobs and helping to fill the void created from TVA's pending shut down of the Widows Creek Fossil Plant.

The massive data processing center in North Alabama will be one of only 14 in the world for Google.

"Selecting the Widows Creek site to build our newest data center came after an extensive search," said Gary Demasi, director of data center energy and location strategy for Google. "The idea of repurposing a former coal generating site and powering our new facility with renewable energy especially reliable, affordable energy that we can count on 24/7 with the existing infrastructure in place was attractive."

Alabama officials have been trying to recruit a major data processing center to the state for the past three years since the Legislature in 2012 passed the Alabama Data Processing Center Economic Incentive Enhancement Act.

Bentley made the announcement today at TVA's 63-year-old Widows Creek plant, which once employed more than 500 workers and was one of TVA's biggest power plants. Widows Creek now has only about 90 employees left operating the lone Unit 7 boiler. Those jobs will be phased out as TVA ceases power production and cleans up the riverfront site near Stevenson, Ala.

TVA President Bill Johnson said landing Google was a successful partnership between TVA and Alabama development agencies, each of which is expected to contribute economic incentives for the Google project.

"Google could have located their next data center anywhere in the world, but they chose this site," Johnson said. "What began as a power generation facility will now become a data center harnessing the power of the Internet to connect people all over the world."

To reduce smog emissions, cut carbon releases and diversify its power generation, TVA is or has retired 33 of the 59 coal units it once operated, including eight units Widows Creek. TVA said it is reviewing the future of the land and physical structures associated with the retired coal-fired plant units.

©2015 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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