Internet rationing ahead? If renewables were so great and so cheap the data centres could provide their own electricity.
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Every time we make a call on Zoom, upload a document to the cloud or stream a video, our computers connect to vast warehouses filled with servers to store or access data, says TechXplore.
Not so long ago, European countries were falling over each other to welcome the firms that run these warehouses, known as data centers or bit barns.
Wide-eyed politicians trumpeted investments and dreamt of creating global tech hubs.
But then the dream went sour.
The sheer amount of energy and water needed to power and cool these server farms shocked the public.
The industry sucked up 14 percent of Ireland’s power last year, London warned home builders that power shortages caused by bit barns could affect new projects, and Amsterdam said it simply had no more room for the warehouses.
Then things got worse.
The war in Ukraine helped spark an energy crisis across the continent, leaving consumers facing rocketing bills and countries contemplating energy shortages.
“Data centers will be a target,” critical blogger Dwayne Monroe told AFP, saying the focus would only grow if Europe cannot fix its energy crisis.
Grassroots campaigns and local opposition have already helped to halt projects this year by Amazon in France, Google in Luxembourg and Meta in the Netherlands.
The Irish government, while reaffirming support for the industry, put strict limits on new developments until 2028.
The data industry says it feels unfairly targeted, stressing its efforts to source green energy and arguing that outsourcing storage to bit barns has helped slash consumption.
‘Veil of shadow’
These arguments are playing out most spectacularly in Ireland.
Activists are campaigning on a broad range of topics and using local forums to push their case.
“They take up a huge amount of space but provide basically no employment,” says Madeleine Johansson, a Dublin councilor for the People Before Profit party, which is campaigning on the issue.
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