THE REGISTER. First the Super Bowl, now this: Kansas City getting a [$1 billion] Google bit barn. But don’t worry, there’ll be digital jobs.

Brandon Vigliarolo

20 Mar 2024

Google has announced plans to drop $1 billion on a new datacenter in Kansas City, Missouri – its first in the state – though when it’ll come online is anyone’s guess.

Google announced its plan today at a press conference attended by Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas and Missouri governor Mike Parson. Along with $1B to build the datacenter, Google will invest in the Kansas City area by expanding a skilled trades development program putting $100k towards North Kansas City School District’s alternative education STEAM program. Both programs could help Google develop a datacenter workforce, we note.

“Our announcement today is a testament to the resources, talent and welcoming spirit of the Kansas City community,” stated Monique Picou, Google VP of cloud supply chain and operations. “Together, Kansas City and Google will help power America’s digital future and we are excited to contribute to the bright future of the region.”

Picou, who spoke at the press conference, said datacenters are a “really, really important” part of Google’s current investment strategy. “We have reached an important inflection point for tech innovation like AI, and datacenters are the backbone of this progress,” Picou added.

According to the governor’s office, the project will create up to 1,300 new jobs – more than 1,000 of which Kansas City mayor Lucas said would be part of construction for the new bit barn.

“One of every ten workers in Kansas City works in the technology industry,” Lucas observed. “With this project and all that will attract … and the other companies who come here we look forward to growing that.”

Lots of talk, few details

It’s fairly clear where the new datacenter will be built, as Google bought up around 500 acres in Kansas City’s Northland area after getting permission from city planners to buy a smaller plot in the area in late December, 2023.

Wherever the server shack lands, Missouri is excited for the cash infusion.

“Our skilled workforce, superior infrastructure, and prime business climate continue to result in investments from leading employers,” gushed governor Parson. “We welcome Google to Missouri and look forward to the positive impact it will provide for our growing high-tech sector.”

When those impacts will be felt is unknown, as Google hasn’t revealed exactly when construction will begin, or end. We’ve asked for more specifics and will let you know if the cloud colossus has any answers at this stage.

Google also revealed it signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with renewable firm Ranger Power and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments to secure 400 megawatts of new solar power capacity to support the datacenter project – but that’s a bit of a mystery, too.

Google’s press release states the solar project involves the Beavertail Solar Farm located “in a former coal community,” but it’s not clear where that facility is or if it’s more than just a proposed project waiting for Google’s investment to be built. Little to no information about Beavertail Solar is available online outside of records of a Delaware-based company and a Missouri subsidiary registered in 2017.

It’s also not clear if the planned datacenter will be entirely powered by the solar PPA – Google has made plenty of investments in renewable energy for its datacenters – or if fossil fuels will still be in the mix.

AI was cited by Picou as a key part of Google’s datacenter expansion plans, but what she didn’t mention was the fact that her employer has blamed AI for its trouble in meeting renewable energy goals.

Google noted in its announcement that the Beavertail PPA will help support its plans to make its datacenters run on 100 percent renewables by 2030 but, as a spokesperson told us previously, that goal is just one of many Google moonshots.

Hopefully those other Kansas City promises don’t fall flat.