Oracle, Google and Meta lead data center construction surge

Dive Brief:

  • Data center construction continues to boom across the United States, as major hyperscalers add more massive projects to their pipelines this year.
  • Examples include Oracle’s recently unveiled $10 billion data center expansion plan and Google’s announcements to open a new $1 billion data center in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as a $576 million data center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Meta recently selected Minneapolis-based Mortenson to build its new $800 million data center in Rosemount, Minnesota.
  • Industry observers say that demand should keep increasing as companies strive to automate processes and workflows. Digital transformation accelerates the need for processing power, storage and cloud services, thus providing strong momentum for sustained data center construction, according to a March 2024 CBRE report on data centers.

Dive Insight:

Primary markets saw an all-time high of 3,077.8 megawatts of data center construction in the second half of 2023, a 46% year-over-year increase, according to CBRE. 

Construction increased most in the Atlanta region, growing 211% to 732.6 megawatts under construction. For example, Microsoft recently paid $6 million to acquire nearly 21 acres near its existing Palmetto data center campus in Fulton County, Georgia, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Additionally, pre-leasing activity, which serves as an indicator of demand versus supply balance, sits at a strong 83% mark, according to CBRE.

Construction, preleasing in primary markets hit record high

Activity, measured in megawatts, has jumped over the past 3 years.

Roadblocks in the supply chain

However, supply chain issues continue to cause headaches in data center construction.

Issues with the procurement of generators, power supply systems, electrical switchgear and power distribution units often push back the construction timeline for these projects. Construction input prices recently ticked up 1.4% in February, predominantly due to lingering inflation, according to Associated Builders and Contractors.

But despite power availability delays and rising construction costs, under-construction activity in primary markets should still reach a new all-time high of more than 2,500 megawatts in 2024, according to CBRE.

Larry Ellison, company chairman and chief technology officer at Austin, Texas-based tech giant Oracle, said its data center projects usually “take longer to build than we would like,” but affirmed the company continues to improve its construction efficiency on these new projects.

Growing data center construction markets

The global AI software market will grow from $64 billion in 2022 to nearly $251 billion in 2027, a 31.4% compound annual growth rate, according to the International Data Corp. 

That will spur new markets across the U.S., like Wisconsin and Indiana, to host large data center campuses. These states will push to bring these projects due to tax incentives, renewable power advancements, transmission and distribution electricity infrastructure and affordable power supply, according to CBRE.

For example, Meta selected New York City-based Turner Construction to build its $800 million data center campus in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The project falls under a data center sales tax exemption in the state, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Elsewhere, Chicago-based Walsh Construction recently began work on Microsoft’s $1 billion data center in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. That project is eligible for an Electronics and Information Technology Manufacturing Zone designation, a Wisconsin program that provides sales and use tax exemption for construction work located within such a zone, according to the Racine County Economic Development Corp.

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