Northern New York Newspapers
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NNY Living
Tue., Sep. 1
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Idea for NNY


Northern New York can learn something from a thriving enterprise in the rural Northwest.

Microsoft has built a large data center in the farm country of Central Washington state — an unlikely site for the giant company.

The corporation needed plenty of space to build the center, which supports several Internet services that Microsoft provides its customers. Thus, in 2006 the firm purchased 75 acres in the region known more for agricultural crops such as apples, potatoes and beans. The facility, known as a “server farm,” opened in mid-April 2007. The buildings house thousands of modular computers, or servers.

The town of Quincy, Wash., population 6,900, now bills itself “Where Agriculture Meets Technology!”

One of the main incentives for the technology giant to build in an agricultural area was the availability of cheap power, the New York Times reported.

A dozen hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River harness electrical power that utilities can offer at rates well below the national industrial average of 6 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour.

Washington state also offered the technology industry generous tax breaks to encourage growth in the state’s rural areas.

The result is that Quincy now has five data centers and a fifth under construction, according to the Times. Yahoo and Dell also have facilities there.

Every Internet corporation has data centers which, the Times writes, “have become more sprawling and ubiquitous as the amount of stored information explodes.”

Quincy has become something of a test site for data centers.

But why not Northern New York? We have the natural resources, the space, the cheap hydroelectric power from Massena, the work force.

Another plus to consider is our cool weather. Data centers house numerous servers that gather and process information for businesses and government agencies. The operation generates a lot of heat, creating the need for an ample air-conditioning system to cool the servers.

The air-conditioning costs alone can be steep, even one-third of a data center’s utility bill, the Wall Street Journal reported. Costs are less, however, in places where the winters are long and cold, and the summers short and mild.

The state of Wyoming has been seeking data centers for that very reason. That state’s climate would fit the bill.

Northern New York can offer cool temperatures, ample land and cheap electricity as well.

Community leaders and regional developers should think about approaching such companies as Microsoft to offer Northern New York as an ideal place for server farms or data centers.

This could be a great opportunity.

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