Nearly three years after Google first announced plans to build a data center in Alabama, the search engine giant said Monday it expects to finish the first phase of the $600 million project on a portion of what was once one of TVA's biggest coal plants.
The Google complex, which is expected to employ from 75 to 100 people there once in full operation, was heralded by Alabama officials Monday for turning an economic hardship to a potential economic windfall.
Bridgeport Mayor David Hughes said Google's decision to locate in Jackson County should transform the Bridgeport area.
"Having Google in our area will usher in a new era for our community," Hughes said. "Ultimately, Google will help us recruit other high-tech companies to our area."
Google bolstered Hughes' optimism Monday by announcing a $100,000 grant to the Jackson County school district to enhance local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.
Google is building its newest data center — only the eighth in the United States and the 14th worldwide for the search engine giant — on 360 acres of the 2,000-acre site of the shuttered Widows Creek Fossil Plant.
The former TVA plant shut down in 2015 after generating coal-fired electricity for TVA for 63 years. At its peak, Widows Creek employed more than 500 employees and provided hundreds of other support jobs in the region.
Google was attracted to the site on the Tennessee River because of the availability of land, water, labor and clean renewable energy. TVA can use some of the existing power lines for the data center's electricity demand and has pledged to provide Google renewable solar, wind or hydro-generated power to comply with Google's desire to use 100 percent clean energy. Google says its data centers use 50 percent less energy than other comparable data centers.
Google is building its Bridgeport facility — and another similar data center on another former TVA site in Clarksville, Tenn. — to help meet growing demand in the Southeast for cloud-based services, searches and video streaming.
Although Google won't initially be a major employer in Jackson County, state and local officials said they hope to decision by Google to locate in Northeast Alabama will spur other technology companies to consider the area as well.