- Published: October 24, 2012
- Written by Amanda H. Miller
There’s a swath of uninhabited land at the northern border of Colorado where Interstate 25 bleeds into Wyoming that’s now totally prepared to become a one-of-a-kind sustainable data center hub complete with its own microgrid, substation, solar power generation and natural gas plant.
The Niobrara Data Center Energy Park is just waiting for a power company or a data center or a developer with Fortune 100 backing to build it out, said Craig Harrison, the park’s founder and master planner. He worked with IDC Architects and CH2MHill to design the park’s infrastructure and study its possibilities.
Now that he’s built it, all that’s left is for them to come, something Harrison said he’s confident will happen in the near future.
“All the zoning is approved,” Harrison said. “It’s zoned for 50 megawatts of solar power… it’s even zoned for renewable energy sources we haven’t discovered yet.”
In addition to 50 megawatts of solar power, the site could sustain wind development and 50 megawatts of fuel cell generation.
“Solar will probably be the first thing built out there,” he said. “It’s just the easiest and fastest.”
The 640-acre spot in Colorado is just a couple miles from and just over the Wyoming border from one of the largest natural gas processing centers in the country, so it will also have easy access to affordable natural gas that it could use for power generation. “Most data centers are built two substations away from the power source,” Harrison said.
They lose energy through transmission that they would gain back in a closed system at a park like Niobrara. “This would allow for the energy creation and the energy consumption to be on the same side of the substation,” Harrison said.
As data storage becomes a bigger and bigger industry, there will be a greater need for datacenters. And smart operators are looking for sustainable and green opportunities, not because it’s good for their reputation, Harrison said.
“The cloud is going to be around a long time and we’re going to have to store data for a long time,” he said. With datacenters being historically huge energy consumers, it will be important to their long-term financial health that they operate efficiently and sustainably.