Sabey Data Centers Plans 100 MW Multi-Tenant Campus In Gathering Eastern Oregon

Sept. 14, 2023
If Sabey's planned $520 million data center in Umatilla heralds a wave of construction for renewably-powered multi-tenant facilities in eastern Oregon, the industry has Amazon to thank.

Sabey Data Centers today announced that it is expanding into Umatilla, Oregon, where the company has purchased 60 acres to develop a 714,540 SF data center campus supporting 100+ MW of critical IT load. Sabey said its SDC Umatilla campus will feature a hyper-efficient data center design purpose-built to support dense hyperscale and enterprise deployments. The company expects to break ground in Umatilla by Q1 of 2025.

Sabey, who has a history of developing data centers in rural parts of neighboring Washington state, said that when built out, its SDC Umatilla data center campus will offer multiple diverse connectivity solutions, has proximity to west coast subsea cables, and will provide low latency connections to U.S. West Coast metro areas. As noted by Sabey, construction of the data center campus will generate jobs in Umatilla's local rural community, with ongoing career opportunities available on the campus. Dave Stockdale, City Manager of Umatilla, commented:

“We are excited to welcome Sabey into our community and delighted to support this endeavor in Umatilla based on their track record of providing advanced data center services through a highly sustainable operations model. Sabey’s commitment to support some of our major projects is a testimony to their reputation as an integrated community partner, and we look forward to having our uniquely qualified local workforce join their team of professionals.”

The Oregonian/OregonLive's Mike Rogoway notes that the Sabey property in Umatilla lies due west of sites for two even larger data centers Amazon plans to build in the city, which sits along the Columbia River approximately 190 miles east of Portland.

The Oregonian's Rogaway wonders if Sabey's $520 million planned data center in Umatilla could herald an expanded wave of data center construction in eastern Oregon. If so, the industry has Amazon to thank.

As reported by Data Center Frontier's Rich Miller this May, Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently invested $15 billion in its cloud cluster in Oregon, and to do so has had to pursue new approaches to energy, including on-site generation (see DCF's Top Data Center Trends 2023 #7 re: Bring Your Own Power), to create a path to sustainable future for its Oregon footprint.

At the core of the project, Amazon has been working work with the Umatilla Electric Cooperative (UEC), which serves AWS operations in Umatilla and Morrow Counties. The AWS Oregon footprint is expected to feature multiple campuses in Boardman, and several more in Umatilla/Hermiston, totaling about 20 data centers in all.

Renewable power plans open doors

Sabey stated that for the SDC Umatilla data center campus, it will procure and invest in carbon-free energy in time to meet the company’s net-zero target by 2029 in the Umatilla campus, and across the SDC footprint in the state, eleven years ahead of Oregon's target.

As noted by the designer, builder and operator of multi-tenant data centers, as of 2020, Oregon reported a 40% renewable utility power fuel mix, and is on target to hit 100% by 2040. Rob Rockwood, President of Sabey Data Centers, remarked:

“Sabey continues its commitment to build cutting-edge, super-efficient data centers in markets like Umatilla that move us toward our goal to operate with net-zero carbon emission by 2029. Our data centers combine that level of sustainability with low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) throughout the data center lifecycle, reliability and connectivity. And as we have in every one of our markets, we will run our campuses with men and women from the local community who share our vision to build opportunity along with the world’s best data centers.”

In his May reporting, DCF's Miller noted how procuring power to support the rapid growth of cloud computing is growing complicated, as seen in the recent policy debate in Oregon where new bills were centered on data center emissions. As recounted by Miller:

In 2021, Oregon passed the Clean Energy Targets Bill, which was hailed as one of the most ambitious state efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its power grid. The law requires utilities Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp and Electricity Service Suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below baseline emissions levels by 2030.

Earlier this year Oregon bill HB 2816 sought to set similar targets for data centers and cryptocurrency facilities with power capacity of 10 megawatts or more, requiring them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent below "baseline emissions levels" by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030. The consequences would be steep: HB 2816 sought to impose daily fines of $12,000 per megawatt hour on any operator that fails to meet the goals.

The bill was widely supported by Oregon environmental groups and non-profits. "These facilities represent some of the most energy intensive users in the state and should be included in accountability for Oregon’s climate goals," wrote the Oregon Sierra Club.

Although the bill met resistance from business groups and communities housing data centers, media coverage focused primarily on Amazon. Although no major data center companies publicly commented on the bill, The Oregonian reported that Amazon was lobbying against the measure behind the scenes, and contrasted that effort with the company's public position. CNBC and the Washington Post followed up with similar stories.

At the time, Amazon said the bill took a targeted approach when a holistic solution was needed, and cited its work with the Umatilla Electric Cooperative (UEC) as a sign of progress. A note from Miller to this editor remarked on how Amazon's ultimate crafting of a power purchasing deal with the local utility which allows it to procure renewable energy has seemingly opened up the market for multi-tenant providers.

DCF has previously reported on how Amazon has become the world's largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, purchasing massive amounts of wind and solar energy

In a 2023 DCF Executive Roundtable forum, Tim Mirick, Chief Revenue Officer of Sabey Data Centers, said, "We believe that there is tremendous potential in alternative power sources," while adding, "Hydrogen can be one of those options."

Liquid Cooling Partnership Reflects Busy September for Sabey

Announcement of the SDC Umatilla data center campus reflects a busy September for Sabey Data Centers, whose announcement earlier this week of a new strategic partnership with JetCool Technologies now takes on added significance in terms of the peas-in-a-pod relationship between data center power and cooling.

Aiming to "redefine and enhance sustainable digital infrastructure standards," the collaboration hinges on exploring recent breakthroughs in advanced cooling technologies for high-density chips.

As aptly characterized by Sabey Data Centers, "The escalating prominence of high-performance computing, coupled with the increasing utilization of AI and edge computing, has significantly heightened the critical issue of cooling high-density environments efficiently."

In response to such challenges, the patented JetCool liquid cooling technology targets chip hot spots with precise microjets, offering what is billed as a transformative approach to data center thermal management.

Sabey reckons the JetCool products stand to reduce capital and operational expenses while ensuring top-tier processing speeds and heightened computing densities without the need for extensive facility modifications.

John Sasser, Chief Technology Officer at Sabey Data Centers, said, “Our commitment to managing our facilities as efficiently and sustainably as possible has always been of paramount importance. Through the integration of JetCool's pioneering self-contained liquid cooling solutions, we are testing a new way to elevate the quality of our services and reinforce our position as frontrunners in the field of eco-friendly data center solutions.”

The companies said the new partnership signifies a promising future for both organizations as they strive to push the boundaries of sustainability in the data center landscape.

Bernie Malouin, CEO of JetCool, concluded, "This journey with Sabey will showcase how data centers and colocation can enable their tenants to use less power while deploying the latest chipsets. This collaboration amplifies our collective drive to offer top-tier thermal management solutions to those aiming to optimize their data centers and high-powered computing needs."

About the Author

Matt Vincent

A B2B technology journalist and editor with more than two decades of experience, Matt Vincent is Editor in Chief of Data Center Frontier.

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