Facebook Plans North Carolina Data Center

Facebook will invest $450 million in a new data center facility in North Carolina, the company said today. The data center near Forest City in Rutherford County will be Facebook's second company-built data center, following on the facility now being completed in Prineville, Oregon.

Rich Miller

November 11, 2010

4 Min Read
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An image of the planned Facebook data center in Rutherford County, North Carolina.

Facebook will invest $450 million in a large new data center facility in North Carolina, the company said today. The data center near Forest City in Rutherford County will be Facebook's second company-built data center, following on the facility now being completed in Prineville, Oregon.

The 300,000 square foot data center is expected to create more than 250 construction and mechanical jobs during its 18-month building phase. When construction is completed, the data center will employ around 35-45 full-time and contract workers.

Expands Mega-Cluster of Data Centers
In choosing North Carolina, Facebook adds to a growing cluster of the largest Internet companies in western North Carolina, where Google and Apple have already built major facilities.

The location tracks with Facebook's strategy of having data center hubs on both coasts of the United States. Facebook has multiple leased data centers in both Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia.

"We knew we wanted an East coast data center, and we look at sites all up and down  the Eastern seaboard," said Facebook spokesperson Kathleen Loughlin. "As the search progressed, we really honed in on North Carolina in general and Rutherford County in particular."

Facebook has purchased 150 acres of land from Rutherford County, providing plenty of room to grow. The location in Forest City had an existing manufacturing facility at the site, providing existing power and water capacity. There are 44kV and 12.5 kV three phase power lines on site. Facebook will build a new "greenfield" structure for its new data center rather than using the existing building.

Power Mix and Renewables
The new Facebook data center will run on electricity from Duke Energy. In 2009, Duke Energy generated 54.7 percent of its power from coal, 27 percent from nuclear power plants, 12 percent from wind and hydro-electric power, and 6.6 percent from natural gas, according to the company's environmental disclosures. The utility expects its mix of renewables to improve further as it adds additional wind power generation.

The environmental group Greenpeace International has critiqued Facebook’s decision to build its new Oregon data center in an area where the local utility uses coal to generate the majority of its power.

By committing to spend $450 million over five years, Facebook has qualified for tax incentives similar to those that lured Google and Apple. Local officials hailed Facebook's decision to build in North Carolina.

"We are proud that Facebook chose to make North Carolina a 'friend',‟ said North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue. "The feeling is certainly mutual. You can‟t pick up a newspaper, read a magazine or flip on the television without hearing more great news about our state. The investment and jobs at the data center will be a boon to that region of the state, and will help confirm North Carolina's distinction as a global business destination.”

A Year in the Making
Perdue said the state has been working with Facebook's representatives for about a year to help bring together the land, utilities and incentives.

"After a rigorous review of sites across the East Coast, we are pleased to locate our new data center in Rutherford County," said Tom Furlong, Director of Site Operations for Facebook. "The team we will hire here will help us provide faster, more reliable and more robust service to people around the world who rely on Facebook to connect and share. We are very grateful to the officials in Rutherford County and the State of North Carolina whose time, effort and commitment were instrumental in making this happen."

The new Facebook data center will be designed to qualify for Gold-level certification under the LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, a voluntary rating system for energy efficient buildings overseen by the US Green Building Council. In addition, Facebook says it will employ "innovative cooling and power management technologies to make the facility one of the most energy efficient data centers in the United States."

Facebook's Prineville, Oregon data center will use evaporative cooling instead of a chiller system, continuing a trend towards chiller-less data centers and water conservation. The facility will also re-use excess heat expelled by servers, which will help heat office space in the building, a strategy also being implemented by Telehouse and IBM. The Prineville design foregoes traditional uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and power distribution units (PDUs) and adds a 12 volt battery to each server power supply

"This is a shining example of the public and private sectors working together to create new opportunities for North Carolina communities,” said Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, a native of Rutherford County. “As the national press has indicated, North Carolina is helping to lead the nation out of the Great Recession. When it comes to this growing field and so many others, North Carolina is open for business.”

For more information on Facebook's data centers, see the Facebook Data Center FAQ.

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