Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Massive wind farm to power Facebook's $1B data center campus in Fort Worth



Social media giant Facebook will invest up to $1 billion to build a massive global data campus in north Fort Worth, which will draw renewable power from a wind farm about a two hour drive northwest of downtown Dallas.

It marks the fifth data center for the world's largest social network, which searched the planet for a suitable location before landing on a tract of Ross Perot Jr.'s massive AllianceTexas development in north Fort Worth.

Beyond looking for a shovel ready site with good access to fiber and renewable energy in a centrally located part of the country, Facebook wanted a good partnership with the North Texas community, Michael Kirkland, a Facebook spokesman, told the Dallas Business Journal.

“We found everything we were looking for here,” Kirkland said. “We wanted a good partnership with the community because we are usually quick to construction as our services grow and we need to continue to expand our capabilities.”

Facebook already has begun moving dirt on the 110-acre site just off State Highway 170, east of the Interstate 35W corridor, in north Fort Worth after buying the tract from Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood, which owns the 18,000-acre Alliance-Texas mega-development.

DPR Construction Co. is the general contractor on the new data center campus.
By summer 2016, Facebook plans to complete construction on the initial phase of the data center campus, which will include a 440,103-square-foot data hall and a 69,755-square-foot administrative building with offices and a café.

At build-out of the campus, Facebook expects to add two other data halls for a campus totaling up to 1.25 million square feet of space. Kirkland said the company plans to develop more server space to meet the growing consumer demands of Facebook.
Facebook is the largest social network in the world with about 1.5 billion active users. In Fort Worth, Facebook expects to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the development, with some in the business community expecting the total to run upwards of $1 billion.

But the economic impact of the Facebook goes beyond the company’s capital investment in real estate.

The company’s hydro energy-powered data center in Sweden cost about $203 million to develop. From 2011-13, the Sweden site brought an estimated economic impact to that region of about $555 million.

The social media provider also has data center sites in Forest City, North Carolina, Des Moines, Iowa and Prineville, Oregon.

Initially, Facebook plans to hire a minimum of 40 full-time, high-paying jobs in Fort Worth with plans to add more than 100 employees in the future.
Based on projections, the City of Fort Worth is offering Facebook $146 million in economic incentives for the project during the next two decades through its limited liability company, Winners LLC. Kirkland said Facebook did not ask for state incentives.

Facebook’s foray into real estate came down to boosting the bottom line. The social media provider wanted to develop and own its real estate after finding it could build a 38 percent more-energy-efficient data center at a 24 percent lower cost than facilities it leased in the past.

In the three years after Facebook opened its first data center in Prineville, Oregon in 2011, the company has saved more than $2 billion in infrastructure costs. Kirkland said Facebook expects to build on those efficiencies in Fort Worth.
“We want to reshape the industry with a mind towards efficiency and sustainability,” he said. “The goal in Fort Worth is to get to 100 percent renewable energy.”

By the end of 2018, Facebook hopes to get to 50 percent renewable energy with the long-term goal of bringing it to 100 percent renewable energy in the future.
That goal will be helped with a new wind farm being built in Clay County — which is about two hours northwest of downtown Dallas — to supply the campus with renewable energy.

The $287 million wind farm is owned through a 50/50 partnership between Vancouver-based Alterra Power Corp. (TSX: AXY) and Connecticut-based Starwood Energy Group Global LLC. 

As part of the deal, General Electric Co. is supplying 119 wind turbines for the wind farm project and has a long-term contract to provide operations and maintenance services for the turbines.

At completion, the wind farm will have the ability to generate more than 200 megawatts, which could power over 10,000 homes for a year.

Facebook’s end game of building a sustainable data center is further enhances by the design of the data halls. The two-story data halls are designed to house the servers on the ground floor with a penthouse floor aimed at funneling outside air through the building after going through a filtration process.

Kirkland said he doesn’t anticipate North Texas’ hot summers to impact the company’s cooling method.

Facebook won’t be the first data center to land in north Fort Worth. There’s a cluster of data centers in the vicinity, which include properties for Blue Cross Blue Shield, AIG and Citigroup.

“They have some of the biggest concentration of data centers in North Texas and the infrastructure is fantastic,” said Curt Holcomb, a JLL senior vice president. Holcomb isn’t part of the Facebook deal, but specializes in data-centric real estate.

Facebook and other big data providers — such as Google and Amazon — have a need for large data centers as more users upload videos and other data, he said.
“If you think about what has happened in the last 10 years on the Internet, you’ll see that video takes such a huge amount of data and it’s going up exponentially,” Holcomb said.

North Texas has an estimated 361 megawatts of data center facilities — or the third largest data center market in the United States — which doesn’t include end users like Facebook (data center users are secretive about the location of their facilities).

Candace Carlisle/Dallas Business Journal.