Blackstone wants to plug hyperscale datacenter into former Britishvolt battery site

Plans to plant $12B bitbarn where homegrown renewables hope once lived

US private equity investor Blackstone has plans for a £10 billion ($12.45 billion) hyperscale datacenter in northern England on a site formerly owned by battery startup Britishvolt.

Blackstone, which styles itself as the world's largest alternative asset manager, is looking to acquire the site near Blyth in Northumberland in northeast England where ill-fated Britishvolt aimed to build a local battery gigafactory to supply the electric vehicle market.


The site of the Britishvolt "gigaplant" battery cell manufacturing site in Cambois, Blyth, Northumberland, UK, pictured in 2022

The intent is to construct a hyperscale bit barn at the location to be operated by its datacenter subsidiary QTS Realty, which Blackstone acquired in 2021. The site may prove to be one of the largest such facilities in Europe if all goes as planned.

However, The Register understands that Blackstone must first obtain an agreement from Northumberland County Council, which has a buyback option on the land, currently in the hands of Britishvolt's receivers. The council is set to vote on this on April 23.

In return, the Council could receive up to £110 million ($137 million) from Blackstone, so this seems likely to be approved, and the company will subsequently buy the land for about £20 million ($25 million).

Yet even then, Blackstone would need to secure planning permission and negotiate power supply contracts before committing itself to constructing the proposed datacenter campus.

A Blackstone spokesperson told The Register: "Blackstone and QTS have the capital, expertise and track record required to deliver on growing demand for datacenter infrastructure. We applaud the Council's focus on revitalizing a stranded site, and we look forward to engaging with them and the wider stakeholder community as we progress this meaningful potential investment."

Blackstone is looking to spend as much as £10 billion ($12.45 billion) on the site, which it believes could eventually accommodate facilities with as much as 750 MW in capacity. By comparison, all the datacenters in the London region are understood to add up to just over 1 GW (1,000 MW) of capacity.

Britishvolt had planned to build a giant battery factory at the Blyth location and create about 3,000 skilled jobs in the process. However, the company struggled to turn a profit and eventually entered administration in January last year, after running out of cash.

The administrator, EY, had planned to sell the site to another battery manufacturer, Recharge Industries of Australia, but there was a reported dispute over transferring a grid connection contract signed by Britishvolt, and it seems that Recharge failed to complete payments to acquire the site.

If the Blackstone development goes ahead, it could be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. A report earlier this year from commercial real estate outfit CBRE said that datacenter capacity in Europe was not keeping pace with demand, and that hyperscalers were snapping up much of what was available. It blamed difficulties in sourcing sufficient power and acquiring available land.

But the head of Britain's National Grid also warned that datacenter power consumption is growing fast, and on track to expand by 500 percent over the next decade. Meeting this demand for power could prove a challenge.

The Register recently reported on power constraints in Ireland, where bit barns will soon account for about a quarter of all electricity consumption. This may already be causing restrictions on the resources that cloud users can spin up in the region. ®

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