Report: Facebook is Iowa’s Mystery Data Center Prospect

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Will a huge data center like this one rise in Altoona, Iowa? Local sources say Facebook is the company behind Altoona’s Project Catapult. This is a look at the Facebook data center in Forest City, North Carolina. (Photo: Rich Miller)

One of the longest-running mysteries in the data center industry appears to be solved. Facebook is the company behind a $1.5 billion data center project bound for Altoona, Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register. The paper cited “legislative sources” in the report, which follows more than a year in which state and local officials described the company only with the codename Project Catapult.

The data center would be Facebook’s fourth company-built project, with the others located in Oregon, North Carolina and Sweden. It would also be the third major Internet data center project in Iowa, joining a Google facility in Council Bluffs and a Microsoft data center in West Des Moines.

The company behind Catapult has an option on land in Altoona and has submitted site plans to local officials showing phased construction of three data centers, each 466,000 square feet in size. The site plan was originally approved last June, but there were few signs of activity over the summer. The mystery company made site visits to Altoona in both September and October, and by November officials in Altoona were working on “fine details” to finalize a deal.

The company also scouted sites in Nebraska, where officials are using a codename of Project Edge. Nebraska’s leading candidate had appeared to be Kearney, Nebraska, where local officials were confident enough about their chances that in late March the city council approved spending $1.7 million to acquire land for the project.

Much of the speculation in Altoona has focused on Facebook, as the multi-building site plan submitted in Altoona is similar to the site plans for Facebook’s project in Oregon and North Carolina. The potential use of solar arrays and fuel cells in Altoona moved Apple up the list of suspect companies.

The Des Moines Register reported that the project includes a request for wind energy production tax credits that would require legislative action.

At the local level, Altoona officials are considering a new water rate that appears to have been developed for the data center project. The city is establishing a new water rate for customers that use more than 9 million gallons of water within a 30-day billing cycle, in which the customer would pay 6 cents per 1,000 gallons for the first 9 million gallons and 3 cents per 1,000 gallons after that.

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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