Uncertainties still dominate Google's Luxembourg data centre plans
By David Thinnes and Emery P. Dalesio
A proposed Google data centre that could soak up vast amounts of Luxembourg's water and electricity could be years away despite more potential legal obstacles being swept away.
Environmentalists last week lost two court challenges seeking to slow or stop the vast warehouse of computer servers that they argue could require 8% to 10% of the country's limited supplies. Google has refused to disclose its water needs, arguing in earlier court proceedings that would enable its rivals to figure out important details of its business plans.
Administrative court judges last week ruled that the Mouvement Écologique could not challenge the reclassification of part of the potential Google site in Bissen but can only contest decisions that are related to the Nature Conservation Act. The judges also concluded that the strategic environmental assessment for the future site was complete.
Mouvement écologique has not decided whether it will appeal, group president Blanche Weber said.
In April, the organisation lost another court case when administrative judges rejected an effort to force into the open a document outlining promises government officials made to Google to lure the tech giant to build a massive data centre in Luxembourg. The environmental group said it had sought to reveal how much water and electricity Google had been promised at the central Luxembourg site.
“We take note of these judgments, but for us it is not a new moment”, Bissen Mayor David Viaggi said. "The procedures continue."
Viaggi believes that if the project goes ahead a building permit could be issued no sooner than next year with construction completed in 2027 at the earliest.
Google offered no indication about its possible project timeline. "We have nothing to share on this subject", a spokesperson said.
An environmental impact assessment for the 32 hectare site which started last autumn is under way, the Environment Ministry said.
“From now on, the project operator, i.e. Google, will set the pace. We have not yet received a draft from the environmental studies. We also have no knowledge of Google's further timing”, a ministry spokesperson said.
Once the environmental report is completed there will be a public consultation, followed by the ministry drafting its evaluation of the project.
"The further the project progresses, the more detailed the analyses and studies have to be," said Frank Goeders, an Interior Ministry official responsible for the Google project.
Construction would be preceded by noise and traffic studies and a government water permit, including a company strategy for where its server-cooling water will come.