Project Alluvion Update: Microsoft Behind Mysterious Iowa Data Center Initiative

Much uncertainty has been surrounding a new Iowa data center initiative, known as Project Alluvion. A number of experts have weighed in on what organization could be behind the mysterious proposed project, but one source recently uncovered new information that shows Microsoft is backing the Iowa data center effort.

Clues Point to Microsoft
The documents containing this information discuss the matter of water consumption with two GFS Data Center Engineering employees, a subdivision of Microsoft that operates its cloud storage and data center services.

Although Microsoft has yet to confirm or deny the company’s involvement in the project, the documents also stated that the firm is currently searching for appropriate land in southeast Des Moines which would serve as the location for the Iowa data center. WinBeta noted that city officials are maintaining privacy surrounding the project, and also have yet to verify the tech giant’s involvement. However, communications between local authorities and Microsoft employees make it likely that the company is behind Project Alluvion.

Newly Available Documents: Water Requirements
According to The Des Moines Register, newly publicized documents contain information from Microsoft and West Des Moines city and water officials about the new data center’s water requirements. The proposed Iowa data center could utilize 2.4 million to 6 million gallons a day when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures drop, however, the data center would require less than 1 million gallons a day.

However, this amount currently comprises about 30 percent of the city’s annual water supply, prompting the need for considerable infrastructure expansion to support the facility’s needs. This growth could include the construction of a new water tower or underground aquifer and storage tank to hold reserve water at one of the region’s waterworks centers. The improvements could cost between $6.8 million and $13.3 million, which without incentives or investments from Microsoft would translate to a 4.5 to 9 percent water rate increase for local customers.

“There’s no plan at this point of raising rates to pay for the Alluvion infrastructure,” said Diana Wilson, West Des Moines water works manager. “There needs to be a really strong discussion about how this will be financed.

Project Details
Before the new documents were uncovered, what was known about Project Alluvion mostly came from whispers or conjecture from a variety of sources. However, the Iowa data center is reported to be a four-phase project that would create as many as 84 jobs in the Des Moines area. Once completed, the facility would also add approximately $255 million in taxable value for the region.

Additionally, the West Des Moines City Council recently approved an $18 million stimulus package for the project, including data center tax incentives and other local enticements. Once incentives were approved, the project was set to be presented to the Iowa Economic Development Authority in March, however, land-purchase agreement complications between the backing organization and property owners stalled the presentation.

“All the land negotiations are not finalized at this time,” said Clyde Evans, West Des Moines economic development director, on April 11. “We’re hopeful that all the negotiations will be concluded sometime between now and next Friday.”

On April 18, state officials are expected to discuss the project, as well as any incentives that might come from Iowa.

If Project Alluvion efforts move forward with Microsoft, it would represent the company’s second major Iowa data center, after its first facility was launched in 2008. The tech giant has invested $860 million in the data center to date, and the facility is currently in its third phase of construction. Microsoft also has data centers in Washington, Texas, Illinois, Virginia and Wyoming.

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