Google’s first data center in the UK: a billion-dollar tech investment

What's the strategy driving Google to the UK?
22 January 2024

The data center will be the first to be operated by Google in the UK. Source: Google

  • The data center will be the first to be operated by Google in the UK.
  • Google’s 2022 deal with ENGIE adds 100MW wind energy.
  • The aim is for 90% carbon-free UK operations by 2025.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cloud computing, Google Cloud is a formidable player, shaping the global data center market with its leading solutions and heavyweight presence. Google Cloud’s commitment to expanding its global footprint is exemplified by its recent announcement of a US$1 billion investment in a new data center in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, UK. 

The move not only underscores the company’s dedication to meeting the needs of its European customer base, but also aligns with the UK government’s vision of fostering technological leadership on the global stage. As it is, one of the critical pillars of Google Cloud’s presence in the UK is its substantial investment in cutting-edge data infrastructure. That said, the upcoming data center would be Google’s first in the country.

Illustration of Google's new UK data Centre in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. The 33-acre site will create construction and technical jobs for the local community. Source: Google

Illustration of Google’s new UK data Centre in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. Source: Google.

“As more individuals embrace the opportunities of the digital economy and AI-driven technologies enhance productivity, creativity, health, and scientific advancements, investing in the necessary technical infrastructure becomes crucial,” Debbie Weinstein, VP of Google and managing director of Google UK & Ireland, said in a statement last week.

In short, this investment will provide vital computing capacity, supporting AI innovation and ensuring dependable digital services for Google Cloud customers and users in the UK and beyond.

Google already operates data centers in various European locations, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, and Ireland, where its European headquarters are situated. The company already has a workforce of over 7,000 people in Britain.

Google Cloud’s impact extends far beyond physical infrastructure, though. The company’s cloud services have become integral to businesses across various sectors in the UK. From startups to enterprises, organizations are using Google Cloud’s scalable and flexible solutions to drive efficiency, enhance collaboration, and accelerate innovation

The comprehensive nature of Google Cloud’s offerings, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS), ensures that it caters to the diverse needs of the UK’s business landscape.

That said, the investment in Google’s Waltham Cross data center is part of the company’s ongoing commitment to the UK. It follows other significant assets, such as the US$1 billion acquisition of a Central Saint Giles office in 2022, a development in King’s Cross, and the launch of the Accessibility Discovery Centre, fostering accessible tech across the UK.

“Looking beyond our office spaces, we’re connecting nations through projects like the Grace Hopper subsea cable, linking the UK with the United States and Spain,” Weinstein noted.

“In 2021, we expanded the Google Digital Garage training program with a new AI-focused curriculum, ensuring more Brits can harness the opportunities presented by this transformative technology,” Weinstein concluded. 

Google is investing US$1 billion in a new UK data center to meet rising service demand, supporting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's tech leadership ambitions. Source: Google.

Google is investing US$1 billion in a new UK data center to meet rising service demand, supporting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s tech leadership ambitions. Source: Google.

24/7 Carbon-free energy by 2030

Google Cloud’s commitment to sustainability also aligns seamlessly with the UK’s environmental goals. The company has been at the forefront of implementing green practices in its data centers, emphasizing energy efficiency and carbon neutrality. “As a pioneer in computing infrastructure, Google’s data centers are some of the most efficient in the world. We’ve set out our ambitious goal to run all of our data centers and campuses on carbon-free energy (CFE), every hour of every day by 2030,” it said.

This aligns with the UK’s ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, creating a synergy beyond technological innovation. Google forged a partnership with ENGIE for offshore wind energy from the Moray West wind farm in Scotland, adding 100 MW to the grid and propelling its UK operations towards 90% carbon-free energy by 2025. 

Beyond that, the tech giant said it is delving into groundbreaking solutions, exploring the potential of harnessing data center heat for off-site recovery and benefiting local communities by sharing warmth with nearby homes and businesses.