Huge Oregon Chip Plant May Become Data Center

An aerial view of the former Hynix semiconductor plant in Eugene, Oregon.

Lots of industrial buildings have been converted into data centers. But some of the most intriguing projects have featured former semiconductor plants, which share a number of key attributes with data centers. One fan of this approach is Simon Tusha, an industry veteran who worked on site selection for Google and more recently during was chief technology officer at QTS when it acquired an old Qimonda chip plant near Richmond and converted it into a huge data center complex.

Tusha is one of the principals in an effort to convert a former  project in Eugene, Oregon into a massive data center. Seattle firm Real Property Investors has a tentative deal to buy the shuttered Hynix Semiconductor plant, which employed more than 1,400 workers before closing in 2008. Last year Real Property said it would partner with The Benaroya Company and O’Keefe Companies to acquire and develop data centers.

The Eugene project could bring together several attractive features – the cool Oregon climate, power sources from renewable energy, and a facility is offering serious power capacity and scalability. The three-story Hynix plant sits on a 203-acre property, and features more than 917,000 square feet of existing space, including a large amount of existing raised -floor space.  Preliminary plans call for the first and third floors of the building to house up to 300,000 of data center space, with the second floor dedicated to mechanical and electrical support equipment for the power and cooling systems.

A key attraction of the site is its sturdy power infrastructure. The Hynix building is fed by two high-capacity 115kv utility feeds, with more than 40 megawatts of power capacity. The site is already equipped with four 2.5 megawatt generators, with space for tenants to add more. The building also has 12,950 tons of existing chiller capacity, that could support up to 45 megawatts of load.

The Eugene initiative is the latest in a series of data center projects targeting locations in Oregon. The state has no sales tax, as well as a climate that is ideal for free cooling – the use of fresh air cool servers, a strategy which can dramatically reduce the cost of operating a data center. The primary Oregon locations benefiting from the data center boom have been the Portland area – especially Hillsboro, a tech hub that grew up around a major Intel campus – and the small town of Prinevlle, where Facebook and Apple are building major data centers.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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