BABYLION – For years in the Nebraska state capital, they were known by the codename Agate.
On Tuesday, the gem is officially out of the bag — Google officials have publicly confirmed that it’s behind the $600 million Lincoln Data Center that’s set to rise on roughly 580 acres near Interstate 80 and North 56th Street.
The project continues Google’s sprawl in Nebraska, adding to the tech giant’s other data campuses in Papillion and Omaha.
2023 construction investment
This year alone, Google officials announced that the company is investing $1.2 billion in infrastructure in Nebraska. This is based on the $2.2 billion invested to date.
“We’re here. We’re here to stay, and we’re here to expand,” Allie Hopkins, head of data centers at Google V Nebraska and Iowa said during a media event at the company’s Papillion growing site.
While some of the cost of Lincoln Center falls within the 2023 total, Hopkins said further investment in the multi-phase project will extend into coming years.
Construction work has already started, with the ground being prepared.
Google representatives said that when the project is complete, Lincoln Center should provide at least 30 full-time jobs.
“All of this is to support these digital services that everyone is used to using every day,” Hopkins said, citing Google Cloud, Gmail, Docs, Search, Maps and more.
“But it’s also about further advancing AI (artificial intelligence) – and that’s really important, not just for Nebraska, but all over the world we have people and companies that rely on these services,” she said.
No longer “behind the scenes”
Speaking with members of the Nebraska congressional delegation, Lincoln Mayor Lierion Gaylor Byrd joked about how her team could now do without the winks and emoticons and games that rhyme with Google.
“For the past four years, since I walked through the doors of City Hall as mayor, we’ve had to call this project onyx, like a polished rock,” said Gaylor Bird. She said it seemed a disappointing id compared to an investment. “It’s no longer behind the scenes.”
She said the choice of Lincoln as the third primary location for Google’s data center in the state reinforces the region’s brand as “a hub in Silicon Prairie.”
Google officials declined to disclose more than basic details of the project.
Master planning records provide more about Lincoln Center, including that it covers up to 2 million square feet of floor space. The site is bounded by North 40th Street, Interstate 77, I-80, and Bluff Road.
The project, under applicant names other than Google, has already passed through zoning and other approval processes.
The developers also applied for government tax incentives related to the Lincoln Project.
Data centers come with an enormous need for power.
Eric Williams, chairman of the Omaha District Public Energy Board, was present at Papillion’s Tuesday event and noted in an interview that growth in the region’s industrial and data center businesses is among the factors driving record energy demand from utilities.
“We are witnessing unprecedented growth in energy demand,” he said.
Much of Interstate 50 comes from Sarpy County, home to several data centers including Google’s Papillion site and the campus of tech giant Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Last week, OPPD’s board of directors approved a plan to add more electricity generation to meet growing demand. OPPD officials said that means an estimated $2 billion to $2.2 billion in capital investment by 2030, nearly double the region’s capacity.
The company said customer rates could increase by an estimated 2.5% to 3% annually from 2027 to 2030 to pay for projects and higher electricity demand.
Construction has been going on since 2019
US Senator Deb Fisher, R-Nebraska, another speaker, thanked Google and said she was pleased to see recognition of the Nebraska workforce and university system that prepares graduates with forward-thinking skills.
“A lot of people think it’s in the middle of the country. Some people think it’s in the middle of nowhere,” she said of Nebraska, adding that she prefers to call it the middle of the universe.
“We have the resources, land and water resources to support these data centers and I think it is essential that we continue to use these resources responsibly.”
US Rep. Mike Flood, R-Nebraska, said he sees local data centers generating jobs that “connect Nebraskas to the rest of the world.”
“This investment underscores how our central location, competitive electricity rates and tax climate have attracted significant investment in a growing data center hub,” Flood said.
Papillion Mayor David Black said he welcomed Google around 2019, when construction began on the Papillion Center, and created jobs at the site such as computer technicians, engineers, food service, maintenance and security roles.
Since then, the company has expanded into Papillion and grown to around 120 jobs. It added its soon-to-be-commissioned data center in northwest Omaha, near State Street and Blair Expressway.
Google recently announced a $350 million investment in the existing Council Bluffs data center campus.
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