Facebook data center

This submitted image shows the current design for Facebook's data center facility in Papillion. An expanded version will be 2.6 million square feet and on both sides of Highway 50 just north of Capehart Road. 

Facebook’s Papillion data center expansion — which will bring the social media giant’s investment in the project to more than $1 billion — is good news for the Omaha area, said the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s CEO.

“When Facebook makes a decision like that, that tells a lot of other companies that Omaha is a place they should be considering, too,” the chamber’s David Brown said Monday. “It makes a big difference in our ability to promote this community.”

Facebook announced the expansion Monday morning. The facility will grow to 2.6 million total square feet, expand to six data hall buildings, jump to the east side of Nebraska Highway 50 and sit on 290 acres.

Today, the data center buildings under construction total about 1 million square feet and sit on 144 acres on the northwest corner of Highway 50 and Capehart Road. That portion of the project has a value of at least $435 million, according to building permits.

Showing that the area can handle such a complicated project — a “big logistic nightmare kind of project” — says a lot to companies considering the Omaha area for similar undertakings, Brown said. And the big brand name helps, too. “That just makes it easier for the other big brands to say, ‘If they can do it, so can I,’ ” he said.

The expansion will allow Facebook to continue to support more than 2.1 billion users, the company said in a statement.

“The people and partners that attracted us to Papillion continue to deliver with talented workers, access to clean renewable energy and excellent access to fiber,” said Jim Piazza, Facebook’s director of data center operations east. “It was an easy decision to expand in Papillion.”

Facebook is buying wind power from Omaha Public Power District, which, in turn, is buying it from the Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project in Dixon County. That wind development is under construction and is expected to start generating electricity late this year. As a result of the expansion, Facebook will be increasing its annual purchase from 200 megawatts to 320 megawatts.

Facebook has said access to clean power is one of the reasons it’s excited about the Omaha-area project. OPPD adopted a new rate structure for Facebook that allows the data center to be powered with 100 percent clean energy.

Original plans for the center called for two 450,000-square-foot data center buildings, connected by a 70,000-square-foot administration building. That portion is expected to go online in 2020.

Included in the expansion:

» Another, 670,000-square-foot complex — made up of two main data center buildings connected by an administration building — on the northwest side of Highway 50 and Capehart Road.

» An additional, 970,000-square-foot complex — featuring two more main data center buildings and an administrative building — on the east side of Highway 50.

Project leaders will break ground on the expansion in April, a year after Facebook unveiled its initial plans for the data center. Those buildings are expected to come online in 2023.

Preliminary site maps that acknowledged the possibility of a future expansion were submitted to the City of Papillion last year. Those showed the two campuses connected by a tunnel beneath the highway. A Facebook representative said Friday that the company is still evaluating options for connecting the campuses.

More than 1,000 construction workers are at the Papillion site each day, the company said. When it’s all said and done, “thousands” of construction workers will have worked on the project, the release said. The data center will also require “hundreds” of operational positions, it said. A dozen full-time job listings have already been posted on the data center’s Facebook page.

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