558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Future looks promising for more data centers in Crook County
Executive Vice President of Fortis Construction, David Aaroe, recently discussed what drew Facebook to Prineville
A part of the evaporative cooling system in the cooling penthouse of Facebook’s Prineville Data Center.
January 17, 2013
“From the outside looking in, they did a great job, and compared to other communities I have worked with, they did a better job.”
That was the comment made by David Aaroe, Executive Vice President of Fortis Construction, spoken on Wednesday morning at What’s Brewing, in regards to the leadership of the City of Prineville, Crook County, and economic development (EDCO) in working with Facebook to bring the company into the community. Aaroe is involved in industrial development around the world, and made a presentation to a standing-room-only group about the behind-the-scenes arrival of Facebook, the planning, and the future of potential data centers in the area.
Aaroe presented his global perspective to “What’s Brewing?” regarding the work that took place before Facebook made the final decision to build in Prineville, and what data centers look for in selecting future building sites. He addressed the issue of power consumption and water, and Crook County’s strengths and weaknesses and what we need to do to attract a divergent and balanced variety of businesses.
With three years already behind the Prineville community since ground was broken at the Prineville Facebook Data Center, a clear picture has begun to come into focus of the long-term impacts on the local community.
Aaroe began by making the comment that in spite of the cold weather in Prineville, he just came back from Facebook’s new data center in Lulea, Sweden, where it was 27 degrees below zero. Throughout the presentation, he stressed that the cool temperatures at night in Crook County are a big draw for data centers, due to the fact that it allows them to use evaporative cooling — which makes them more efficient environmentally and economically.
He also looked at growth projections for future data center construction.
“If you take one of the buildings here in Prineville that Facebook is building — just one — and you translate that into capital cost, in 2000 there was an equivalent of 35 of those building or data centers constructed in the United States. In 2020, you will be seeing an average of 133 per year,” indicated Aaroe.
He pointed out that this gives a perspective of the growth curve, although the global growth curb is exponentially above what the U.S. is experiencing.
“Those markets are becoming more and more active.”
He said that with this forecast and with the migration of more things to the internet, the growth of data centers will not slow down. He added that communities like Prineville, Quincy, Wash., and Reno, Nev. will continue to be attractive to large enterprise companies.
“I really don’t see things slowing down.”
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, and Aaroe referred to data that was compiled in regards to projections of mega-data centers to grow unabatedly.
“It will be interesting to watch the growth over the next 10 to 15 years, because these large data centers will continue to be constructed, but the technology will become more efficient. They will be able to get more servers and more data in there.”
In regards to energy consumption on a national level, the projection is that by 2014, data centers will consume almost 8 percent of the power produced in the United States. Aaroe said that the efficiency of the equipment in the data centers is improving dramatically.
“The good news is, yes, there is a lot of power being consumed, but it is down dramatically from the forecast that was put together eight years ago,” he said. “Eight years ago, this number was a lot bigger. The capacity of the data centers is growing, but the equipment and the facilities are becoming dramatically more efficient, so we are seeing a significant slow-down in the forecasted consumption of power. So it’s all good news.”
One question Aaroe addressed was why Prineville was selected for Facebook, and what the attributes of the community are that would attract a similar enterprise company. He emphasized that enterprise companies are usually internet or data-based companies, and differ from a traditional company like financial institutions that need to be in a major metropolitan area.
Some of the considerations for companies like Facebook include a favorable-to-cool temperature and climate, good latency requirements, proximity to the Bay Area in California, a pro-active approach by local leaders and representatives, competitive electrical rates, infrastructure and available power, access to dark fiber, and adequate water and sewer. Facebook also looked at the ability and availability to drill a site well as needed.
Aaroe said that this is where his company came in to determine what Facebook needed from a technical standpoint, what was a viable site, and to find the appropriate location. When they began the process for finding a site for Facebook to build their own data center, these were the specifications that needed to fit the criteria for their first-ever data center. They wanted a facility on the West Coast that would support their servers and infrastructure. They originally looked at locations in Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. They soon short-listed to Washington and Oregon, and ultimately chose Prineville.
“We look at every community based on their physical element and based upon the operational expense elements and tax environment.”
After looking at the pros and cons of the Prineville community, they began conversations about acquisition and property.
He added that the current availability of adequate water, power, and fiber will attract more businesses.
“Aside for the fact that it’s just a great community and a wonderful place to do business, I know that both of the companies that have settled up here on top of the bluff are really happy. They have made a great choice, and I speak with them on a weekly basis. They are just elated to be here. It has been a great experience for them,” Aaroe said of the community.
“I think you will see more,” he said of the future of more data centers in Prineville. “Oregon and Prineville both have very attractive local and state incentives when you compare to California — there is no comparison on tax bases.”
He said Washington has a lot of other taxes, and “out of the gate, it’s more attractive for Oregon.”
Aaroe said that Prineville is well-positioned to attract more data centers should they decide they want more of this kind of industry. He said he gets one or two calls every month inquiring about what is happening in Prineville.
In regards to impact, his opinion is that this is determined by how the leadership markets their community on this platform. He gave the example of other communities that marketed ahead of their capacity for sewer and water.
“There wasn’t good foresight in regards to what I would call a more strategic approach about how this market is developed, how much infrastructure is allocated to this market, and how much infrastructure is allocated to the incumbent companies, etcetera.”
Aaroe noted it impacted the community significantly. Eric Klann, Engineer for the City of Prineville, said that when the City and County were considering Facebook, several of their staff went to Quincy, Wash., to spend a few days looking at the impacts of the data centers on their community.
“We wanted to better understand the cooling process and all that, and it was really helpful to give us a better understanding of what we were talking about,” remarked Klann.
He emphasized that Crook County has more than adequate sewer and water to accommodate future industry, and he added that because of the evaporative cooling of the present data centers, there is little waste excreted, and only a fraction of the anticipated water usage that was projected. Of the anticipated 800 gallons per minute, Facebook only uses 100 gallons per minute for evaporative cooling.
“With the new technology, the impact is a fraction of what we thought it would be,” concluded Klann.