Google plans major facility in Quebec, saying hydropower will help it meet green goals
MONTREAL -- Google plans to buy land just outside Montreal and ultimately build a data facility there, the tech giant announced Monday.
It would invest about $735 million in the process, with the facility employing "dozens" of people when it's completed, the company said in a press release.
The facility would be in Beauharnois, which is on the South Shore near Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.
It isn't a done deal, Google said. It's waiting for various conditions and "government approvals" to be fulfilled.
However, Quebec's economy minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon, was quoted as saying he was "very proud to announce" a "future major project."
One of the draws for building in Quebec, Google said, was its abundant hydropower.
"By 2030, we aim to run our entire business on clean electricity every hour of every day," the company said.
"As one of the world’s largest producers of hydropower, Québec is an important region for helping us achieve this ambitious sustainability goal."
The facility would be Google's second in Quebec. It also has an office in downtown Montreal, on Viger Ave., that is being expanded in a construction project. With five floors, it will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 employees.
Google also has a partnership with AI research institute Mila, having donated over $3 million in the last three years and collaborated on projects, it said.
The construction in Beauharnois, if it goes ahead, will employ up to 500 people at peak times, and the final staffing will include "at least" 20 to 30 people in highly skilled jobs.
Google needs more physical capacity in Canada in general, it said.
"Every day, demand for Google services is increasing and our physical infrastructure follows the same rhythm," it said.
"Once acquired, this site in Beauharnois will ensure we have options to expand our data center infrastructure into Canada, when our business requires it."
The power consumption of data centre facilities is confidential information, according to Hydro-Quebec
Stephane Paquet, CEO of Montreal International, called Google's choice to set up in Beauharnois a "great testamanet to Quebec's renewable energy sector."
"Thanks to Quebec’s renewable energy, Greater Montreal is in a good position to attract foreign investments like Google’s or others in various fields including electric vehicles and energy storage systems, for instance," he said.
FARMLAND REALLOCATED TO MAKE SPACE
To make room for the facility while compensating farmers for the use of land, the government is making a series of changes, some of which will result in a new "agricultural park" meant to bridge the divide between farming and city life.
First, the province will exclude 62.4 hectares from agricultural zoning, it said in a release. That land belongs to Hydro-Quebec and is being leased to farmers at the moment.
However, the province will set aside another parcel that isn't currently included in agricultural zoning, it said.
It said its intention is to compensate local farmers for the project's repercussions with that move, though it didn't explain more what if it envisions repercussions aside from the land use.
"An equivalent area of land outside the agricultural zone belonging to Hydro-Québec, and adjacent to the land that Google will buy, will be included in the agricultural zone," the province explained.
That land will "then be ceded or entrusted in the long term" to the UPA-Fondaction Agricultural Trust, a body of the Union of Agricultural Producers or UPA.
There will be one other land transaction, this time by Hydro-Quebec.
"To underline the importance and the sustainability of its relations with the UPA, Hydro-Québec will cede to the [UPA trust] a land of 150 hectares located in Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka, in the region of the Montérégie," said the release.
"This will help support the start-up of the Trust's activities."
This appears to be linked to the new concept growing out of the deal: the Metropolitan Agricultural Park.
This will be some land designated outside of Montreal to "stimulate the implementation of projects demonstrating good practices and innovation in peri-urban agriculture," according to the release.
"In addition, it will bring urban and rural communities closer together by promoting general public access to agricultural land and their participation in educational activities."
The province is also making two cash payments: one is $3.54-million to the UPA trust to help it start up, and the other $2.7 in financial assistance to the Metropolitan Community of Montreal or CMM "to ensure the implementation of the Metropolitan Agricultural Park."
Both amounts are non-repayable.
The province adopted a decree on April 28 to enable the land transfers specifically for the data centre, it said.