A lot of data could be stored here one day

Colorado man wants to build a self-sustaining data center  

Northern Colorado is a good spot to build a data center, according to Craig Harrison, who has spent the last three years planning the construction of the Niobrara Data Center Energy Park.

data center

A 1.5 million square foot data center would be built on this 662 acre site in Northern Colorado and be completely self-sustaining, with wind, solar and gas powered electricity.

It’s been approved for construction, zoned by local officials and inspected by engineers. Now, Harrison just needs someone to build the $4.2 billion project.

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But this isn’t just any data center site. Its location near the Cheyenne Gas Hub in nearby Wyoming means that there are three natural gas lines that pump 1.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day directly by the site. Whoever builds out the data center will have an opportunity to plug into those pipelines and to power gas-generating power plants. That means the site will create its own energy for the potentially 1.5 million square feet of data center space that can be built at the property. The gas pipelines are so secure that Harrison’s engineers say it eliminates the need for diesel backup generators.

Just in case more power is needed though, this site has that covered. The 662 acre parcel is zoned for up to 50 megawatts of solar, wind and fuel cell power generation. And there is also up to 100 megawatts of traditional electric power from the grid available. That’s a lot of power - one megawatt can support about 100 homes.

It’s not just the power generation features that make Niobrara a good site for a data center: There is also massive network infrastructure already at the site. The Denver area serves as a hub for traffic flowing across the country so the site has 6 long-haul fiber carrier connections nearby, and another 21 fiber connections in close proximity. Sprint, CenturyLink, AT&T, Verizon and Level 3 all run fiber connections by the location. Whoever builds out this data center has plug-and-play network connections that can send data out to the entire world at high speeds.

The weather in Northern Colorado makes the data center an ideal location too, Harrison says. The cold air during most of the year can be used to cool water, which in turn would chill out the data center. A basin of 135 million gallons of water sits beneath the location, which is named after the adjacent Niobrara geological formation. Engineering firm CH2MHill has studied the site and says the water cooling system would eliminate the need to install expensive chillers.

Weld County in northern Colorado, where this project would be built, has no local sales or use tax. What’s more, business and personal property taxes having declined 33%in the last 15 years.

The project is pretty much ready to be built after Harrison has secured permitting and zoning. He expects a big company or a federal government agency looking to build out a massive data center footprint to bite. Microsoft, Oracle, HP, Intel, Google, Verizon, IBM and even the FBI already have data centers in the Denver area. The eventual owner could have control of the entire site and either buy or lease the entire parcel, or just portions of it. Either way, if Harrison gets his way, one day there will be a lot of data stored at that site.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.  

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