Fort Worth to be Facebook’s Newest Friend

The Internet giant is putting down roots in the fifth largest city in Texas.
Fort Worth data center rendering

Facebook has started construction on a billion-dollar data center project in the AllianceTexas development in north Fort Worth, Texas – the Internet giant’s fifth such project and the second to be powered entirely by wind energy.

“Like its predecessors, we expect Fort Worth to be one of the most advanced, efficient, and sustainable data centers in the world. Our continuing work on data center design is an important part of our overall infrastructure efficiency efforts, which have helped us save more than $2 billion in infrastructure costs over the last three years,” Tom Furlong, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said in a Facebook blog post. “And like its immediate predecessor, Fort Worth will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, thanks to the 200 MW of new wind energy we helped bring to the Texas grid as part of this deal.”

Facebook’s data center in Altoona, Iowa, has its energy supplied by a nearby wind farm in Wellsburg, Iowa. Ken Patchett, Facebook’s director of data center operations, West Region, said on the company’s Facebook page that the Fort Worth data center will be powered by 200 MW of wind energy from a project being built 90 miles away on a 17,000-acre site in Clay County. Patchett said Facebook is working with Citigroup Energy, Alterra Power Corp. and Starwood Energy Group on the wind energy project.

“We put a lot of effort into choosing where to locate a facility like this. There are a lot of things we look for – everything from a shovel-ready site, to access to renewable energy, to great partnership with the local community, to a strong pool of local talent for construction and long-term operations staff,” Patchett stated on Facebook. “We think we’ve found all that and more in Fort Worth, and we’re excited to be getting started.”

Local and state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who gathered at the 110-acre site off State Highway 170 Wednesday, were also excited Fort Worth was chosen. Facebook reportedly considered about 220 communities for its fifth and largest data center. In addition to Altoona, Iowa, Facebook also has data centers in Prineville, Ore., Forest City, N.C., and Lulea, Sweden.

Facebook will build up to three 250,000-square-foot data centers at the 18,000-acre AllianceTexas site owned by developer Hillwood Properties. The first phase is expected to be completed by June 2016. The project is costing at least $750 million and is projected to surpass $1 billion upon completion of the second phase. Facebook expects to have at least 40 jobs at the site but those numbers could grow to more than 100, according to the officials who expect the project’s economic impact to be far greater than just the jobs generated.

“The future economic growth opportunities related to data centers and data warehouses are staggering,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said in a news release from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Despite tax breaks negotiated with the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, the Facebook complex is still expected to generate millions in taxes for the region. The chamber’s press release noted that extensive negotiations, including for the incentive package approved in May, took nearly a year.

“Our state’s tax structure and policy, including legislative action in 2013 that eliminated undue charges on data centers related to equipment sales tax, are key attractors for companies like Facebook,” David Berzina, the chamber’s executive vice president of economic development, said in the release.

Demand for data centers is growing, particularly as more companies use cloud-based services, according to a market research report by Analysts at the research firm are forecasting the data center construction market in the United States to grow at least 4 percent every year through 2019. Development of new data centers is also occurring in Europe, where Apple announced plans earlier this year to invest nearly $2 billion in data centers in Ireland and Denmark. Like the Facebook data center in Fort Worth, the Apple European data centers will function on 100 percent renewable energy when completed in 2017.