Facebook unveils water projects to support $ 800 million Mesa data center

An illustration of the planned $ 800 million Facebook data center campus in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo: Facebook)

There was little suspense about Facebook’s possible unveiling as the undisclosed company behind a giant new data center project in Mesa, Arizona. The bigger question was how the company would address concerns about the impact of the $ 800 million project on scarce water resources.

The Facebook project caught the nation’s attention when a Mesa board member expressed concern over reports that the data center could use up to 1 million gallons of water per day, calling it “Irresponsible use of our water”.

During the official announcement of the new data center on Thursday, Facebook showcased three water restoration projects that will restore more than 200 million gallons of water per year to the Colorado River and Salt River Basins and will help improve water safety in Arizona. The company said the 960,000 square foot Mesa facility will use 60% less water than the typical data center due to the heavy use of fresh air for cooling. Facebook said local average that it will not collect water rights from the town of Mesa.

“We know water is a concern, so we want to make it clear that Facebook is committed to restoring more water than our data center will consume in Arizona’s watersheds,” the company said. “We are excited to contribute to projects that stabilize water levels in Lake Mead, let more water flow to Oak Creek and provide permanent drinking water to families in the Navajo Nation in Arizona. ”

The water conservation measures echo those seen in Microsoft’s recent announcement of its new cloud region in Goodyear, west of Phoenix, which featured a multi-dimensional approach to water issues that included technology, community outreach and collaboration with conservation groups.

Drought is straining Arizona’s water resources

When Project Mesa was announced, speculation about the mystery candidate immediately focused on Facebook, which is the only hyperscale operator without a presence in the Phoenix market. Phoenix has become one of the fastest growing data center growth markets and is now the fifth largest market for data center capacity in the United States, behind Northern Virginia, Silicon Valley, Dallas and Chicago.

Users have long sought space in Phoenix as an alternative to California locations with higher costs and disaster risk, and in recent years the region has emerged as a major hub for cloud computing.

Mesa Deputy Mayor Jenn Duff was the lone dissenter as council voted 6 to 1 to approve the project, saying Arizona’s groundwater supply is being used up too quickly, creating long-term risk. term for water availability. Duff’s criticisms have been at the heart of local and national media scrutiny of the data center industry’s management of water resources amid widespread drought in the southwest.

In Arizona, 83 percent of the state is currently facing “severe drought” conditions, according to the United States Drought Monitor. This challenge is reflected in this week’s headlines:

Arizona’s water crisis is reflected in the debate in Mesa, which highlights tensions between business and environmental concerns. Mesa’s economic development officials have actively courted data centers to move into the Elliott Road technology corridor, where there is now 732 megawatts of data center capacity in the pipeline. apple and EdgeCore operate data centers in Mesa’s Elliott Road technology corridor, with future projects planned by Google, NTT Global Data Centers Americas, Digital Realty, CyrusOne and EdgeConneX.

Mesa at the forefront of Phoenix cloud growth

In addition to a robust electrical infrastructure, the Elliot Road Technology Corridor has Foreign Trade Zone status, and the City of Mesa has created a Planned Zone Development Overlay Zone that “reduces entitlement risk and accelerates the development process ”. The district also offers a recycled water loop.

“Facebook is joining other tech giants in making the wise decision to move to Mesa’s Elliot Road tech corridor,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “Our city’s robust infrastructure and overall livability, coupled with Facebook’s drive to economic vitality and commitment to giving back to the community, make it a good choice for Mesa. ”

A view of the mountains of Mesa, Arizona, as
seen from Elliott Road Technology Corridor. (Source: Data center border)

“Mesa has established itself as a great location for a number of reasons,” said Rachel Peterson, vice president of infrastructure at Facebook. “He has excellent access to infrastructure, renewable energy development opportunities, strong talent in both construction and operation, and excellent community partners. ”

Facebook is pursuing a massive global expansion of its infrastructure. Over the past year, it has announced new data centers in Illinois and Tennessee, as well as major expansions of existing campuses in Utah, Georgia and Prineville, Oregon, where the company is deploying a multistory data center design with two floors of server rooms to increase capacity.

In Mesa, Facebook will work with the local utility Salt River Project to bring 450 megawatts of new solar power to the local electricity grid. These projects, located in Pinal County, will bring additional jobs and investment to the region. It is also part of our efforts to limit the amount of water used, as renewables use less water than fossil fuels.

The data center is expected to create 100 full-time jobs, while up to 1,500 construction workers will be on site during the peak of construction. Facebook said it will post job vacancies soon and directed construction inquiries to RMR Construction.

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