Facebook's first Altoona, Iowa, data center. (Image: Facebook)

Crews Break Ground on Fourth Facebook Data Center in Iowa

Facebook announced that it has broken ground on the fourth building of its data center campus in Altoona, Iowa. Once completed, total square footage on the 400-acre site will reach 2.5 million.

According to a company blog post, this is the largest of nine Facebook data center construction sites, with the third structure still being built. Like the other buildings on the campus, the newest one will be powered by renewable energy from the Wellsburg wind farm–built and maintained by MidAmerican Energy–which added 138 MW of capacity to the grid at the onset of the project in 2013.

The company has a goal to power 50 percent of its data center operations with renewable energy by 2018. The Facebook data center in Altoona is the company’s first major foray into renewable energy (although it has a 100-kilowatt solar array at its Prineville, Oregon, data center).

The company finished and opened the first phase in Altoona (a 476,000-square-foot, $300 million building) in late 2014. The second building spans 468,000 square feet and the third is 496,000 square feet before the cold storage expansion — a smaller, stripped-down data center the company uses to store rarely accessed customer photos and videos.

Cold storage uses a relatively low amount of power and requires a lot of floor space. Facebook’s Prineville and North Carolina locations both have cold storage in addition to their full-size facilities. According to Facebook, “The [cold storage] data centers are equipped with less than one-sixth of the power available to our traditional data centers, and, when fully loaded, can support up to one exabyte (1,000 PB) per data hall.”

The Menlo Park, California-based social media giant isn’t just adding square footage in Altoona; it expects to keep up to 800 construction workers busy on a daily basis until 2020 and add more full-time employees to the current 200. So far, teams have put in 2.75 million hours of work into the project, with plenty more to come over the next three years, according to Facebook.

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About the Author

Technology writer and editor Karen Riccio spent 15 years as managing editor for Data Center Management magazine, published by AFCOM – a leading industry association whose mission is to advance the professional development of individuals in the field of data center and facilities management. She is currently content editor for AFCOM.com as well as its weekly newsletter. Karen also oversees the Industry Perspectives section of Data Center Knowledge. She can be reached at karen.riccio@penton.com.

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