Winnemucca data center project takes next step
A Las Vegas company that specializes in the sale of locations for major data centers last week started marketing a site north of Winnemucca to potential users around the world.
It’s an important next step in the plans of Winnemucca Farms, the biggest agricultural producer in the state, to diversify its farming assets in Humboldt County.
It’s been talking for a couple of years about plans to develop a gas-fired power plant on the property, which is crossed by the Ruby Pipeline.
Everett Thompson, chief executive officer of WiredRE, the company marketing the property to data-center users, said the Winnemucca-area property would provide the strong electric power infrastructure that’s critical to data center operators with their large buildings filled with servers.
The property also has the potential for large-scale development of solar power, another key factor for green-minded technology executives, Thompson said.
A third key element, he said, is the availability of water to provide cooling of data centers. Cooling, he said, accounts for 10 to 20 percent of their operating cost.
“This site has a lot of water rights attached to it,” Thompson said.
Stacy Kincaid, a spokesman for the investment group that owns the property, said the group looks to develop large-scale data-center projects.
“With 22,000 acres, we are seeking opportunities to work with data center users who require world-class infrastructure over the long term,” Kincaid said.
Thompson said small-town locations increasing are chosen for major data centers by the group his brokerage has dubbed “GAMFY” — Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo.
Facebook, for instance, built two big data centers in Prineville, Ore., a community of 10,000 in the center of the state. Google, meanwhile, built a $1.2 billion data center at The Dalles, Ore.
Most data centers aren’t big employers — Google, for instance, employs about 80 at The Dalles — but Thompson said data centers help draw business travelers and other economic benefits to their hometowns.
Still, a data center project would provide important diversification to the Humboldt County economy, which continues to rely largely on mining, agriculture and tourism.
“This is a big, and a very important, step for the community,” said Bill Sims, executive director of the Humboldt Development Authority.
Along with the property’s access to infrastructure such as the high-speed data lines that link San Francisco, Reno, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, Thompson said the developers believe that the state government is likely to offer “material incentives” to companies that develop data centers.
He noted that Apple received $89 million in tax abatements through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to build a $400 million data center east of Sparks and an office complex in downtown Reno.
The property probably would need approval of a zoning change by county officials before development could begin.
“We have not had any conversations directly with the potential developers,” said Bill Deist, the administrator of Humboldt County. “We did hear a presentation regarding the possibility of a data center a little over a year ago at a public meeting. Our planning department has not been approached regarding the need for any permits or zoning-related information.”
WiredRE has been marketing data-center locations in the United States and Europe since 2008.
According to the Site Selectors Guild, the pandemic is shifting corporations’ radar away from big cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago and toward mid-size cities like Reno.