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Google clears regulatory hurdle to build Minnesota data center

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Google logo is seen in Brussels in February 2014.
Google logo is seen in Brussels in February 2014. The Minnesota PUC on Tuesday OK'd agreements between Google and Xcel Energy to provide electricity for the data center from two dedicated wind farms.
Georges Gobet | AFP | Getty Images 2014

Google's plans to build a data center in Becker, Minn., took a step forward Tuesday when state utilities regulators OK'd agreements between Google and Xcel Energy to provide electricity for the data center from two dedicated wind farms.

Google wants to build the center on land next to Xcel Energy's Sherco power plant. Becker Mayor Tracy Bertram told the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that the project would help her community transition away from a coal-based economy after two of Sherco's three units are scheduled to be shut down.

"Google will be the anchor tenant in our business park that will help attract even more capital investments, provide professional level wages, a new economy of jobs and a long-term economic vitality," she said.

PUC board chair Katie Sieben called it a win-win that will add more renewable energy and reduce costs for Xcel customers.

"It's cheaper for Xcel's system. It brings costs down," she said. "And it provides a tremendous economic benefit to the state — not just to the region, but to the state, and all of Xcel's ratepayers."

If Google decides to move forward in Becker, it's expected to create 50 permanent jobs with annual wages totaling $4 million. Becker and Sherburne County have offered Google a waiver on local property taxes that could exceed $14 million over 20 years.

It's not clear if Google is looking at other potential locations for the data center, and the company has not yet indicated when it will make a final decision about the Becker proposal.

The tech giant, however, has signaled that if it does build it will give the operation a Minnesota flavor.

The PUC said Tuesday that Google expects the new data center to be owned and operated by an affiliate of Google — Honeycrisp Power LLC.