CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Google corporate executives officially confirmed their entry into Clarksville-Montgomery County Tuesday morning in an exclusive phone interview with The Leaf-Chronicle.
The company ended all speculation, announcing it has acquired the former Hemlock Semiconductor site in northeastern Montgomery County and will be transforming it into a $600 million data center to serve Google’s vast and rapidly growing Internet search engine and overall application capacity.
The news was confirmed to The Leaf-Chronicle first by Joe Kava, Google vice president for Data Center Operations, in a phone interview from his office in Mountain View, Calif.
Kava said the first phase of the company’s Clarksville plans will employ about 70 people, including computer technicians and engineers, as well as electricians, mechanics and others specializing in “running a large industrial facility.”
Additional phases may be added to the Clarksville data center in years to come, but Kava said he isn’t prepared to commit on that possibility just yet.
Kava also said the Clarksville data center will be “one of the world’s most efficient and most technically advanced data center campuses.”
“The Internet is greatly expanding,” Kava said, “and data centers are really the engines of the Internet. We need to increase our capacity to serve the users.
“With that in mind, today we are announcing our 15th global data center in Clarksville-Montgomery County. We are now the proud owners of the former Hemlock Semiconductor site,” he said.
In addition to Google’s local jobs and investment, the company said local officials will begin working with Google to launch a formal community grants program to support science and technology education, clean energy and access to the Internet in the Clarksville area.
It can sometimes take years to design and begin to operate a data center. Montgomery County’s data center is still early in the design phase, and Kava urges a measure of patience from the community for that reason.
But he said the corporate partnerships that Google is planning in Clarksville-Montgomery County will begin almost immediately after the new year, when a Google website providing a clearinghouse of local information about the company and its local role, progress, partnerships and business needs, will be up and running.
Thanks to an arrangement with Tennessee Valley Authority, Google said it will also be able to scout new renewable energy projects and work with the regional wholesale power distributor to bring that power onto their electrical grid. Ultimately, Google officials said their goal is to offset 100% of their energy use with renewable energy.
Already, Google has signed contracts to purchase more than 2 gigawatts of renewable energy, “equivalent to taking nearly 1 million cars off the road,” and making it the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world.
That re-use approach is even part of the 1,300-acre industrial land purchase.
“This (former Hemlock) site comes with the benefits of existing infrastructure, which we plan to reuse and recycle. For example, many of the office buildings will be used for Googlers when the data center is operational,” said Kava. “At the same time, we have room to innovate and grow both as a data center and as a member of the Montgomery County community.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to experiment with new kinds of technology and design an impressive facility — we can’t wait,” he said.
“While opening a data center can take years, we can’t wait to get to the drawing board to design the next Internet engine in our lineup. Good things come to those who wait,” he added.
Google has data centers in 14 locations on four continents, including Iowa, Georgia, Singapore and Belgium, and recently announced plans to develop a site in Alabama. Clarksville will become home to Google’s eighth U.S. data center, its 15th globally.
State and local officials reacted with jubilation Tuesday in prepared comments.
Among them, Gov. Bill Haslam said, “We are grateful for Google’s significant investment in Tennessee and the new jobs that will be created in Montgomery County. This is one of the world’s most well-known brands, so it says a lot for our state that it will soon be home to Google’s eighth U.S. data center.
“We welcome Google to Tennessee and look forward to building a strong partnership with the company in the years to come.”
Kava told The Leaf-Chronicle that Montgomery County and the state of Tennessee have been “truly wonderful to work with.”
“The people there are excited about what we’re doing, and that makes us feel like we’re definitely doing the right thing,” Kava said.
Follow Jimmy Settle on Twitter: @settle_leaf
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