Data centers have become integral to everyday life. They provide the security and bandwidth needed to store and process information, making tasks such as email, streaming video and transferring money possible.
The demand for data centers will continue, as companies such as telecommunication providers, banking and healthcare institutions depend on fast, secure and reliable data transmission and storage.
The Midwest is home to about 22 percent of the nation’s data centers, and Minnesota is emerging as a leading location for such facilities. The state has a number of attributes that lend itself to hosting data centers, such as a low incidence of natural disasters and a climate that provides free cooling nine months out of the year.
Minnesota also has access to reliable, low-cost energy and impressive incentive programs for data centers.
Great River Energy was the first in the state to launch a data center site certification program in 2014. It partnered with Deloitte Consulting’s Real Estate & Location Strategy (RE&LS) practice to design the program’s parameters and continues to utilize the esteemed company’s expertise in the site evaluation process.
The co-op has just completed a second round of site assessments resulting in the certification of four new data center sites in Lakeville, Cannon Falls and St. Cloud. The new sites complement Great River Energy’s existing inventory by providing a greater range of acreage options as well as some new south metro area locations. Two of the four sites offer more than 100 acres to accommodate a data center campus development with multiple buildings, or a large enterprise user.
“This program demonstrates that Great River Energy, our member-owners and the communities we serve are proactive, business-focused and prepared for data center development,” said Erin Sparks, Great River Energy’s economic developer in charge of the data center site assessment program.
Data centers are appealing from the cooperative’s perspective because they are very efficient and have a high load factor, which helps predict future energy consumption.
Such facilities also benefit local communities. Because of their fiber infrastructure requirements, data centers typically attract multiple providers. Increased competition means faster and more reliable internet services for residents, as well as better prices.
Data centers also bring in substantial property tax dollars – typically more than a manufacturing plant would. They also create high skill and high wage jobs.
“Having pre-assessed or certified data center sites is beneficial for member co-ops and the communities where sites are located because they are more attractive to site selectors,” Sparks said. “The risk associated with the development process has been reduced, so typically they offer greater speed to market for the company considering the location.”