Facebook will build a new data center campus in Stanton Springs, Georgia, the company said today. The facility in Newton County, about 40 miles east of downtown Atlanta, will be the company’s nine U.S. data center, along with three in Europe.
The announcement is the latest in a series of huge data center projects coming to the Atlanta suburbs, establishing the region as an up-and-coming destination for large data centers. Switch and CyrusOne have each announced plans for major new campuses in Douglas County, where Google already maintains a substantial data center operation.
The company’s plans for an Atlanta campus had been reported in local press, although accompanied by unlikely estimates of up to $40 billion in local investment. Facegbook plans to spend $750 million to build two data centers spanning 970,000 square feet. The buildings will be fully operational in 2020.
“We are thrilled to be making Georgia our new home and look forward to a long and strong partnership with the state, Newton County, and our new community,” said Rachel Peterson, vice president of data center strategy at Facebook. “As a company, Facebook is committed to creating positive impact at the local level. That means hiring, partnering and investing locally.”
Powered by Renewable Energy
As with the company’s most recent cloud campus near Richmond, Facebook has procured 100 percent green energy for the project. The data center will be supported by renewable energy from the Walton Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), which will install hundreds of acres of solar panels on Georgia’s electric grid as part of a power supply agreement with Facebook.
“We are committed to powering our data centers with 100 percent clean and renewable energy, and finding strong partners that can help us achieve that ambitious goal is a key part of our selection process,” said Facebook’s Peterson. “We are excited to work with Walton EMC to bring hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy to the electrical grid in Georgia.”
Walton EMC is a customer-owned power company that serves 127,000 customers on a 10-county service area between Atlanta and Athens, Ga
“We are happy that we could guarantee the renewable energy solution that Facebook was searching for,” said Ronnie Lee, CEO of Walton EMC . “We are pleased to be partnering with them on a power supply arrangement that can serve as a positive economic and environmental template for future industrial developments throughout the nation.”
The power supply agreement is being supported by the commodities division of the investment firm Morgan Stanley. Investment bank trading desks have been used in previous data center power agreements, including one that procured green energy for Yahoo’s Nebraska facility. Trading desks can help use sophisticated hedging tools to manage price swings, which can create unpredictability in large long-term power deals, particularly for intermittent sources like solar and wind energy.
Big Win for Georgia
Atlanta has always supported an active colocation business and enterprise data centers, with QTS Data Centers emerging as the largest data center provider. But the arrival of CyrusOne and Switch, which is also planning a campus in Douglas County, signals growing confidence that Atlanta can now support wholesale data centers, and perhaps hyperscale players. The Facebook announcement reinforces the case for hyperscale in Atlanta.
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The Atlanta market has also been a focal point for sale-leaseback deals , a transaction in which an enterprise company sells its data center to a third-party, and then leases the space it needs to operate its existing IT facilities. Serverfarm, Ascent Corp. and Lincoln Rackhouse have all pursued this strategy in the Greater Atlanta market.
More broadly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal hailed the Facebook announcement as evidence of the state’s growing appeal as a destination for technology companies.
“This project represents a significant investment and will create meaningful opportunities for the surrounding community,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “We appreciate Facebook’s leadership for recognizing Georgia as a state that serves not only as a major hub for general business, but also as a place where tech firms can be successful in the future.”
“I am excited for Facebook and their new data center to join an industry ecosystem here that is known for being a hub of technological innovation,” said Metro Atlanta Chamber president and CEO Hala Moddelmog. “Facebook will be able to take advantage of our skilled engineering workforce and leading telecommunications infrastructure.”