North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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Case studies Data centers aren't thriving just in the western part of the state. Major projects also are planned or under way in Charlotte and Greensboro. 300,000-square-foot building that looks similar to those of Apple and Google. This is Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook Inc.'s data center, where, Raleigh-based spokes- man Billy Warden says, the company will invest $450 million over the next fi ve years. When in full swing, its employees will refl ect the energy demand that Duke's Carter describes. "The Rutherford data center will be looking to fi ll positions to repair and maintain servers, generators, backup power supplies and other critical infrastructure," Warden says. "On average, these employees will earn higher salaries than the local prevailing wage." Facebook will begin hiring in late 2011 or early 2012. Next door in Cleveland County, Wipro Ltd., a software company based in India, bought a vacant 215,000-square-foot building it will convert to a computer farm, hiring 20 and spending about $75 million to implement energy effi ciency and an uninterruptible power supply. Gov. Bev Perdue says the decision indicates that the state has become "a prime location for growing and expanding technology companies." And near Ingles, another Cleveland County community, Disney World Services Inc. bought 26 acres in a business park, where local offi cials say the company is expected to build a data center. Not all the focus is on the western Piedmont's data corridor. "Obviously, the concentration is from Rutherfordton to Kings Mountain, Maiden and Lenoir," Millar says, noting that projects also have been announced recently in Charlotte, Durham and Research Triangle Park. "One of the unstated advantages of having Apple ... in your community is that it gives you and the rest of the state a lot more credence when it comes to technology." New York-based Time Warner Cable Inc. plans to spend more than $100 million to expand in Charlotte, including building a 178,000-square-foot data center to be completed in 2012. American Express is building its center east of Greensboro near Interstate 85. Guilford County's largest active economic-development project, it is expected to be completed in early 2012. 20 North Carolina Economic Development Guide Much of the rush to build data centers is fueled by a trend called cloud computing. That means individual computers will increasingly link to huge computer farms like Google's and Apple's, where giant servers will store and process programs and information. Most of that storage and processing is now done by individual servers in the business world or by home desktop and laptop computers. If that's the wave of the future, though, why North Carolina has become a data-center darling is more elementary. "Energy is the high-cost piece of a data center, especially if you're talking outside the cost of building the center itself," Carter says. That's a twist from most traditional industries in which labor and benefi ts are the costliest factors. In that regard, data centers are kilowatt killers that, despite the absence of rumbling looms and screeching saws, may require more energy than tradi- tional industries. Just how much they require, however, is a secret. "We can't discuss the needs of a specifi c customer," says Jason Walls, a Duke spokesman in Charlotte. Representatives of Google, Apple and the others declined to comment too, saying they fear disclosing power requirements also reveals their plans and capabilities. But glimpses of the demand can be pieced together. A spokesman for the U.S. Environ- mental Protection Agency points to a 2007 study conducted by agency researchers at the time the data-center industry was beginning to emerge. Even then, their electricity use was staggering. According to the report, it equaled 1.5% of the nation's total consumption — about 61 billion kilowatt-hours. That's more than all televisions used that year and about as much as 5.8 million typical homes. At Apple's center in Maiden, company offi cials boast that it's "as eco-friendly as you can make a data center" and point to features such as its slab fl oor and engineering that separates cold air used to cool servers from the hot exhaust they generate. Nevertheless, EPA research found cooling computers and servers requires about half of a data center's

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