Facebook is building a new $750M data center in Alabama. The 970,000 square foot facility will create around 100 jobs and is expected to be up and running by 2020.
Huntsville, Alabama has an emerging tech scene. The location was chosen by Facebook because of its talent pool, renewable energy options, and emerging tech ecosystem. Huntsville is also home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; a great place to fantasize about travelling to the deep recesses of space to get away from the 24-hour news cycle. The only negative is people tend to say “Roll Tide” a lot. We get it, Alabama.
While a $750M investment to create 100 jobs sounds modest, these hyperscale data centers spur local tech scenes. It’s hard to quantify the indirect jobs created, but luckily Facebook has done economic studies on its previous data center projects.
Facebook-commissioned studies found that for every $1M in operating expenses at its data centers, 13 jobs are supported in the economy. Every $1M in CapEx means 14 jobs supported. That means the Huntsville data center will have a (varying) positive impact on 10,500 workers. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook all spend CapEx in the billions annually on data center infrastructure – that’s a lot of jobs and commerce.
Perhaps most importantly, Facebook is committed to minimizing the accompanying carbon footprint for these data centers. The company is big enough to negotiate with utilities. It’s a big enough customer that it can influence and support a renewable push on the part of these utilities.
Facebook worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority to establish a renewable energy tariff, not just for Facebook, but all qualifying customers in the area. This is another factor nurturing the local technology scene. Facebook said it’s working closely with the TVA to identify new solar projects that will eventually power 100% of the facility.
Data centers in general are the engine driving industry, enabling the world’s economy. To quote a wise man, “with great power comes great responsibility”. – it’s easy to shirk accountability instead of using negotiating leverage for good.
Facebook embracing renewable energy supports and enables others to do the same. The company also has the power to play a similar, positive role in promoting and nurturing data privacy. Going above and beyond what it’s legally required to do would help influence others to do the same.