Nevada Newsmakers

News - June 24, 2024 - by Ray Hagar

Tract, a company based in Denver, Colo., which develops master plans and builds infrastructure for data-storage centers, will invest $100 billion into  Storey County over the next 10 years, CEO Grant van Rooyen said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.

Van Rooyen told host Sam Shad that his company has already secured thousands of acres of land and large amounts of power and water for the planned growth of the data-storage centers just east of Reno and Sparks.

"We have 11,000 acres," van Rooyen said. "We've also procured, under contract, 2,025 megawatts. That's just over two gigawatts of electricity.

"And by the time we've fulfilled the construction and the development that goes along with utilizing that two gigawatts, the total development value, or the capital involvement bringing that to life, will be approximately $100 billion," he said.

"I'll say that again, $100 billion," van Rooyen added.

A gigawatt is 1 billion watts, enough juice to power 876,000 homes for one year, according to estimates.

Recently, Tract purchased almost 9,000 acres at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex (TRI) to complete its current land acquisitions in Storey County. About a quarter of Tract's overall investment will go to data-center infrastructure needs, van Rooyen said.

"About $25 billion of that will be concrete, steel, mechanical and electrical infrastructure that constitutes the buildings," he said. "Those are massive construction projects. Those come with a huge number of good, high paying jobs. And, that is development that'll occur over possibly a 10-year period."

Many factors were considered before investing so heavily in Storey County, van Rooyen said.

"The first thing I would observe is data centers can't just be located anywhere," he said. "They have a number of criteria that are very responsive to development.

"Proximity to fiber networks is critical," he said. "And very early in my career, I was participating with a very talented group of individuals and we built the largest fiber network in the United States. And one of those routes comes down I-80 (Interstate 80) and so we remember that fondly.

"Availability of power, electricity is very important, as is the price of that electricity," he said.

Van Rooyen added that the I-80 corridor is also ideal because of it's "proximity to an end user base -- those who are going to consume these resources that exist in these data centers."

He said the area also has "a talented workforce that can participate in developing them, building them and operating them."

He also praised Storey County for being a "very pro-business environment at both the political and the economic level."

The nimbleness of Storey County government gives the company "the ability to move with speed and certainty," he said.

"We found that in Storey County," he said. "The rules are clear. We can pull a building permit within 30 days. We can pull a grading permit within seven days. And those characteristics really, really matter with that magnitude of development."

Tract's job is to take care of all the infrastructure and building needs to allow a data-storage company to come into a Northern Nevada site and open for business "almost immediately," van Rooyen said.

"We don't just buy land. We also contract for that electricity. We post surety with our utility partners," van Rooyen said. "We buy transformers and with long lead time, electrical infrastructure.

"And we create roads," he continued. "We extend wet infrastructure, water and sewer. We buy water. We facilitate the availability of that water on site, and we deliver graded, prepared pads, such that a vertical developer can come along, transact with us and be in a position to start building almost immediately."

Because of the growing data-storage industry, Northern Nevada's energy usage is expected to double in the next decade, NV Energy President and CEO Doug Cannon said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.

Van Rooyen said Tract developments will use multiple energy sources.

"First year at a macro level, our entire industry is appropriately committed to the pursuit of net zero and embracing all forms of renewable energy," he said. "That's a long-term goal and the delivering on that objective is going to require the entire energy mix," van Rooyen said.

"Net zero" is a target of completely negating the amount of greenhouse gasses produced by human activity, according to an Oxford dictionary definition.

However, data-storage centers need a constant source of energy that can't be interrupted so energy redundancies are built into projects.

"It is fair to say that the energy transition we need to go through is also very complicated and data centers require firm power," he said. "They can't turn on and off for eight hours a day at a time when the sun shining or the wind's blowing. And so the choreography of that energy mix is crucial."

Water, or the lack of it, has traditionally been a limiting factor for economic growth in Northern Nevada. But Van Rooyen said Tract already has the water for the first phase of development.

"We are currently one of the largest owners of water in TRI," he said. "We made those purchases a couple of years ago, both potable and processed water."

He later added: "So, yes, we have what (water) we need. And we have a little bit more than we need, as an insurance policy."