Record-Setting Data Center Goes Off the Grid

Kingman, Ariz., will host the nation's largest solar-powered data center, which will consist of 350 shipping containers encircled by 1,600 solar-panel-topped trailers.
The Hive, under construction in Kingman, Ariz. Image courtesy of Pegasus Group Holdings

Demand for data centers continues unabated, and a $3 billion project under way in sparsely populated Mohave County, Ariz., will meet its own heavy consumption needs without placing a burden on the grid. Located on 717 acres in Kingman, The Hive will be the largest solar-powered data center in the U.S. Developed by Pegasus Group Holdings and an affiliate, Plus Minus Power, the facility is expected to start operations this fall. The Hive will generate approximately 340 megawatts, most of which will supply the data center.

In an unconventional twist, the project won’t be housed in buildings, noted Tami Ursenbach, Mohave County’s economic development director. Instead, 350 shipping containers will house the data center’s servers, routers and other equipment. Some 1,600 trailers, each containing 10 solar panels, generators and storage, will encircle the containers.

Powering the data with renewable energy was a strategy purposefully chosen by Pegasus Group Holdings, which aims to do good while doing well, said  Dan Briggs, the firm’s CEO. His concerns about the potential strain on the grid prompted an exploration of alternatives. “When we looked at our long-term objectives, we realized we didn’t have to be grid-tied,” he said.This could work in Mohave County, but be exported nationally and internationally.” 

We hope we are an anchor tenant that helps encourage other large companies to move and do business in Mohave County,” he added.

Mohave County presented a number of advantages: inexpensive land, some of Arizona’s lowest taxes and—not least—abundant sunshine. Jean Bishop, a Mohave County supervisor. She describes The Hive as Arizona’s largest-ever economic development project.

Hospitable Climate

Image Courtesy of Pegasus Group

The climate is also more hospitable to a data center than many other southwestern sites. Thanks to its high-desert setting, Mohave County is 10 to 15 degrees cooler on average than candidates like the Las Vegas or Lake Havasu areas. Yet the site is only a 90-minute drive from Pegasus Group’s Las Vegas headquarters, so Pegasus Group team members “can come down, do business, and go back home easily,” noted Tami Ursenbach, Mohave County’s economic development director.

Transportation infrastructure factored into the selection, as well. The Hive’s site is along Highway 40, an artery which links Kingman to Los Angeles. Nearby, Highway 93 is currently being improved in anticipation of eventually becoming part of Interstate 11, which will extend from Mexico to Canada.

One of the few challenges to building The Hive was the lack of a paved road leading into the area. “It’s about a mile of dirt road going into that site, so it’s a little difficult for the company,” Bishop noted. “It will need to be improved, but it’s traversable at the moment.”

The county’s transportation network makes it an appealing site for corporate relocations, and both national and international investors are keeping tabs on the data center project, Ursenbach said. “With marketing and news stories from Pegasus Group Holdings and Plus Minus Power, concerning The Hive, other companies nationally and internationally are looking at Mohave County and Arizona, what we have to offer and are now entertaining the idea of relocating their companies here,” she added.

As the first phase nears completion, future phases are already being planned. “We’re already evaluating potential locations to host Phase II,” said Dan Briggs, CEO of Las Vegas-based Pegasus Group. Briggs said. “Before we finish Phase I, we want to have the Phase II site selected and acquired.” Timing depend on finding the right locations, but Briggs expects Phase II to be up and running by the third quarter of 2020.