Facebook parent company Meta announced a mega expansion to its massive Eagle Mountain data center build-out on Friday.
Meta already has five buildings constructed on the site, a few miles south of Eagle Mountain’s city center, comprising 2.4 million square feet of space that houses data storage and processing equipment for the world’s biggest social media platform.
The Phase 3 expansion plans unveiled Friday call for two more giant structures that will add about 2 million additional square feet to the facility and bring Meta’s total capital investment in the Eagle Mountain project to $1.5 billion, according to the company.
On Friday, Meta also announced a $200,000 donation in support of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District’s Hobble Creek Flow Restoration project in Utah County. Meta says the donation is part of a larger effort to fund water restoration projects that equal 200% of Eagle Mountain facility’s water consumption. Meta also says its in-house data center designs are 80% more water efficient than the industry average.
“We are thrilled to be expanding our presence in Utah,” Darcy Nothangle, Meta’s director of community and economic development, said in a statement. “Eagle Mountain, the state of Utah and Rocky Mountain Power have been outstanding partners from the beginning and we look forward to continuing this strong and fruitful partnership for years to come.
“Today’s expansion announcement, together with our donations to the Hobble Creek Flow Restoration Project and Flip Your Strip program, further underscore our commitment to Eagle Mountain and Utah County.”
Eagle Mountain Mayor Tom Westmoreland accompanied members of the media on a tour of the facility Friday and said the fast-growing city is bearing direct benefits from the data center investment, in spite of a package of municipal and state tax breaks that could be worth as much as $750 million in the coming decades.
“If we’re just looking at numbers there’s a high return on that investment,” Westmoreland said. “This land prior to Meta being here brought in a grand total of $35 annually. … Now it brings in millions even with that tax increment.”
Westmoreland said one of Meta’s first moves, before it began data center construction, was investing $120 million in infrastructure improvements that included extending utility service and roads to its site. That kind of cash outlay, Westmoreland said, is better coming from a private sector partner than from levying a tax increase on residents.
And, the mayor said, the investment has already helped draw other giant investments to the area, including a $300 million Tyson Foods plant and a Google data center.
“In order to reach our goal we need these kinds of partners, the Metas, the Googles, the Tysons,” Westmoreland said. “Because of their capabilities, because of their expertise, because of their resources and the positive impacts they can make.”
Exactly how much data Meta’s Eagle Mountain facility will be able to hold is a little murky.
The company isn’t saying, but experts estimate the highly secretive National Security Agency data center in Bluffdale, which has a similar footprint, might accommodate 3-raised-to-the-power-of-12 exabytes of data. And don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of an exabyte, the term for 1,000 to the 6th power or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of information.
Meta’s unprecedented tax incentives
Before it became known as Meta, Facebook unveiled the Eagle Mountain project in May 2018 after rumors and speculation about a mysterious big tech project in the area swirled for months. The depth and breadth of local and state tax incentives provided as a lure for the company were also clarified at that time, and they are unprecedented.
If all five phases of the data center project are completed in the next few decades, Facebook is set to harvest a potential $750 million in taxpayer subsidies along the way.
Phase 2, announced in late 2019, added 500,000 square feet of additional facilities to the first phase and pushed the capital investment to $1 billion, according to the company.
While Facebook is currently in the third phase of the project, the open-ended incentive agreements extend public benefits well beyond the first three phases and could land the company hundreds of millions in additional tax relief over the next four decades.
In addition to its capital costs, Facebook is investing about $150 million in infrastructure improvements, including bringing power to the 500-acre site from a nearby high-capacity power line corridor, extending sewer and water service, bringing in telecommunication lines and improving roads.
That infrastructure investment is expected to be equalized by the Phase 1 tax benefits of $150 million over 20 years. That tax break gives Facebook 100% tax relief on personal property taxes and 80% relief on real property taxes for a term of 40 years for four of the five taxing entities it’s beholden to.
Only the Alpine School Board created some caps on those benefits, with limits of $40 million per phase and $120 million total over 35 years. Alpine School District represents the biggest beneficiary of the taxes Facebook will pay — and the entity giving up the most via the tax break package — as the recipient of about 70% of the total taxes due. The company will also enjoy some sales tax exemptions created specifically for data centers by the Utah Legislature.
A study commissioned by Eagle Mountain on the project detailed that if Facebook carries the project through five phases inside the 40-year limit, the company would earn $750 million in tax relief.
Utah is currently home to numerous data centers, including facilities operated by eBay, Twitter, Oracle and the National Security Agency.