Google’s controversial project sparks outrage in Uruguay

"It's looting": Uruguayans lash out against the construction of a Google data center, which will lead to enormous waste of energy and water and cause pollution rates to skyrocket. A true oxymoron for a country that has managed to achieve almost 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, abandoning fossil fuels

Google’s determination to push forward with a controversial project in Uruguay continues to fuel public debate. The tech giant is poised to construct a data center in the Department of Canelones, designed to house the necessary equipment to ensure the internet operates around the clock.

Planned for a 74 acres site within the Parque de las Ciencias, a free zone aimed at attracting investors with benefits including national tax exemptions, the project is under scrutiny for its environmental and resource implications.

energy consumption

Recently disclosed by Uruguay’s Ministry of the Environment, Google’s Environmental Summary Report unveiled for the first time the staggering amount of electricity the facility will consume upon reaching full capacity. Approximately 560 GWh per year will be used, equivalent to the electricity consumption of 202,898 households. This figure alone has raised eyebrows among citizens and environmentalists.

Water usage

The cooling requirements for Google’s new data center’s servers are equally astonishing, necessitating about 46 million gallons of water daily—equivalent to the domestic use of 55,000 people. This forecast has sparked a wave of indignation among the populace, which has taken to the streets to protest in recent months, amid the country’s worst drought in 74 years. For Uruguayans, the plan is seen as a plundering of their resources and the environment.

“A small portion of Uruguay’s water is used for human consumption,” denounced Daniel Pena, a researcher at the University of the Republic of Montevideo, who accessed project documents after a legal battle. “The majority is used by large agricultural industries, such as soy, rice, and cellulose producers. Now, we have Google planning to use exorbitant amounts.”

Environmental impact

Adding to the controversy, Google’s data center will be equipped with emergency generators, to be activated in case of sudden power outages. These diesel-powered generators will emit carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter and sulfur dioxide (SO2), potentially skyrocketing pollution levels.

This situation is particularly paradoxical for a country that has become a global model for sustainable energy transition. Currently, Uruguay is the only nation in the world to have achieved 98% of its electricity generation from renewable sources in less than two decades.

Sources: Uruguay XXI/ Guardian 

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