Microsoft ramps up UK data center expansion with plans for new Yorkshire site

Attendees walk past the logo of US multinational technology company Microsoft during the Web Summit in Lisbon on November 6, 2019
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft has unveiled plans to build a new data center on the site of a decommissioned nuclear power station in Eggborough in Yorkshire.

The company is consulting with the local community while it clears the land, and said it will submit a planning application for the area, which has been a vacant brownfield site since 2018 when the Eggborough Power Station was decommissioned.

In an announcement, Microsoft said it plans to build two two-storey data center buildings, including data halls, office space, further ancillary facilities, and landscaping improvements including tree planting and wildlife ponds.

"Data centers make a significant and long-term impact on the local and regional economy," the company told local residents.

"Data centers create well-paid local and regional jobs, both during construction and operation. Data center suppliers and employees support the local economy by buying local goods and services."

As part of the move, the tech giant intends to apply to North Yorkshire Council for planning permission by the middle of this year, with a view to having the site fully cleared by late 2026 and starting construction in early 2027.

There's no date given for completion, or for when the data center will open for business.

The announcement from Microsoft builds on its commitment to delivering 100% renewable energy at data center sites by 2025. The tech giant said it aims to minimize water usage at the site and to reuse 90% of data center waste by 2030.

Late last year, Microsoft announced plans to double its data center capacity in the UK. This includes £2.5 billion in funding for AI data center infrastructure across the country and the expansion of sites in London and Cardiff.

"This infrastructure investment will help to meet the exploding demand for efficient, scalable and sustainable AI specific compute power and the needs of the private and public sector waiting to take advantage of the latest cloud and AI breakthroughs," the company said.

Microsoft operates more than 300 data centers in over 34 countries, and currently hosts data center campuses in London, the South East and Wales. It is consulting with the local community on a brownfield site in Newport, Wales, with plans for two data center buildings, where it hopes to start construction later this year.

Meanwhile, it's also started building a new £1 billion data center in Park Royal, west London, with construction scheduled to finish by early 2026.

The UK currently has around 800 data centers in total, between them generating around £4.6 billion in revenue in 2021 and in 2022, contributing 6.9% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.