WRI public meeting reveals plans for an energy-efficient, carbon-neutral data center

(Riverton, WY) – Project plans for a new data center on the Wind River Reservation were presented at a public meeting on Wednesday at Wind River Internet (WRI) in Riverton, with the goal of constructing and maintaining the center as a local, regional, and national leader in green technology.

Northern Arapaho Tribal Industries (NATI) and WRI are developing a grant application that would fund a feasibility study to sustain the creation of a large, climate-controlled data center on the Wind River Reservation to house the traffic of critical applications and digital data for local, regional and national companies and corporations.

Patrick (Adam) Lawson, Executive Manager of NATI/WRI said that a lot of companies had approached them over the years, asking if they were “ever doing a data center because we’re in a remote area, and there are a lot of different resources for energy here,” he said. “A lot of them are really committing to going green, and so they want to have data centers scattered all across the nation, not just in one area.”

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The prospective data center would have the ability as a power center through cutting-edge, renewable energy matrix of wind, solar, geothermal, and natural gas. Part of the planning process will explore the ways to utilize renewable energy sources to power the data center.

“In this way, the data center would not only be energy-efficient, but also carbon-neutral,” Lawson said, referring to information that data centers consume more than two percent of the planet’s electricity and can generate an estimated 200 million tons of carbon dioxide every year…more than what 240 million cars create in the same period of time. The project would sequester its own carbon emissions and footprint over time.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to become one of the country’s first entirely carbon-neutral data centers, and potentially bring national attention to this project,” he said. “Our plan is to utilize natural energy…also strategically…to attract large national clients and regional.”

Many large companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple seek to minimize their carbon footprint by contracting with data centers that utilize renewable resources.

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Another important part of the process will be investigating innovative ways to utilize the excess heat emitted from the data center. Lawson said that a data center in Scandinavia had developed a way to utilize its excess heat to provide heating to local homes applying a similar model here.

“Because many of the residents lack adequate heating in the cold winter months, exploring an innovative heating option such as this is compelling in our area,” Lawson said. “The same model is able to convert excess heat into a cooling system for the servers during the warmer months. We are eager to investigate these possibilities as well.”

The potential to develop a workforce that can benefit the community is another factor that lends significant weight in favor of the project.

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“There’s a certain phase to this that includes the opportunities to develop a workforce,” said Cy Lee, who is facilitating and managing the application process for the WBC grant.

“We will need to hire people who can manage and maintain the network on a larger scale,” Lee said. “We have to have a staff, internally that can do billing, grant management, run the company…so in its entirety, this company by itself serves a lot of different purposes. We need data center technicians; LCCC (Laramie County Community College) has a great (certification) program. So as we move down this path, now we can start talking about building capacity and creating opportunities for tribal members to get certified, and we can hire them because they’ll have the education.”

“Our commitment to natural energy is therefore not only good for the environment but also a varied way to maintain profitability and fiscal sustainability into our long-term future,” Lawson said.

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For more information, call Adam Lawson at 307-857-2004 x201 or email: [email protected].

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