Apple Expansion Boosts Prineville Data Center Ecosystem

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The city of Prineville, Oregon may soon be home to more than 1  million square feet of data center space. (Photo from wka via Flickr).

As expected, Apple has filed plans to build a large data center in Prineville, Oregon. The company has already begun work on a 10,000 square foot facility featuring modular data centers. But this week the company submitted a master plan for its 160-acre property in a high plain in Prineville, across the street from a growing data center campus for Facebook. Apple’s Data Center plans indicate that the company will build two large buildings spanning more than 500,000 square feet of data halls.

It’s been a big week for Prineville. With both Apple and Facebook filing expansion plans this week, the town of about 10,000 people in central Oregon is showing signs of progress in a bid to become a data center destination. Facebook put Prineville on the data center map by choosing the small town as the site of an ultra-efficient data center. The company has spent more than$210 million on the Prineville facility. The Apple project, along with Facebook’s three data centers, means Prineville may soon be home to more than 1 million square feet of data center capacity – and almost certainly more servers than people – with tens of millions of status updates, music downloads and online videos flowing through the town’s data centers.

This week brought several signs of the benefits these developments are creating:

  • Engineering and construction services company Cupertino Electric  (CEI) announced that it has expanded its data center operations with a new office in Prineville. “While we have long engineered and constructed data centers in the Pacific Northwest for industry-leading clients, our new office enables us to extend our offerings for current and future data center customers who rely on us to meet their complex electrical needs,” said John Boncher, Cupertino Electric’s president and chief executive officer. “Oregon’s business climate, weather and abundant natural resources make Prineville a great location for our fifth United States-based office. We look forward to establishing an even greater connection with the local Prineville community.”
  • The Apple Data Center project may help Prineville address its challenges with water capacity, which is one of the factors in Facebook’s focus on water conservation. The city of Prineville  recently discovered an underground stream which can supplement existing water supplies. Local officials said city engineers have drilled test wells and gotten good results. ”We will be converting those to production wells, with Apple’s help, and we will reimburse them over time,” Prineville City Manager Steve Forrester told The Oregonian. “It will give them the water they need, and it gives us … more capacity than they are consuming. It strengthens our core system.”
  • On the power front, the Bonneville Power Administration and Pacific Power announced plans to accelerate the completion of the Ponderosa substation in Prineville, which will add 400 megawatts of electric capacity. The substation, which was originally scheduled for completion in June 2013, will now be completed in January.

These developments collectively position Prineville to be a more than a “one-hit wonder” when it comes to site selection.

The central Oregon climate allows data centers to take advantage of “free cooling,” the practice of using cool outside temperatures to support the cooling systems. This approach allows data centers to use outside air to either cool water or provide direct air cooling for servers. Either approach allows companies to reduce their use of refrigeration systems, which use a large amount of energy.

Photo of Prineville, Oregon from wka via Flickr.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief 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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