Eagle Mountain • Facebook’s parent company plans to nearly double its already gargantuan footprint of advanced data storage facilities in Eagle Mountain, pushing Meta’s investments in the rural Utah County site to $1.5 billion.
Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted the announcement Friday on Facebook, a few hours after ebullient Meta employees welcomed visitors for a first-time tour inside one of five enormous H-shaped server buildings that stand starkly in an expanse of sagebrush and desert.
Zuckerberg likened the data servers to “a giant supercomputer” and said the 2 million square feet of additional space at Eagle Mountain would operate entirely on renewable energy and consume far less water than such centers typically do for cooling.
“The technology in our data centers,” he wrote, “is pretty wild.”
The build-out will bring the Eagle Mountain data facility to nearly 4.5 million square feet, making it one of 15 sizable facilities Meta has deployed globally to store data served to billions of users of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media platforms it owns.
Two buildings at the site came on line in 2021, and three more are under construction, all in advance of the expansion. Usually private, Meta opened the center for a tour Friday by the media, guests and a delegation from Eagle Mountain and the Alpine School District.
The clean futuristic warehouse spaces hold row upon unimaginable row of server racks in humming hallways so long that employees traverse them with scooters. Each floor-to-ceiling rack is filled with hundreds of blinking hard drives, flash memory and other storage technology holding backup bits of all those pictures, comments, likes and other personal interactions online.
“This is the Meta cloud,” Lisa Garrett, site manager at Eagle Mountain, said as she pulled open a server drawer threaded with neatly braided network cables.
Enlarging the new remote campus of immense metal-clad data warehouses and perimeter fences located on the city’s south end will also employ 1,750 construction workers at peak, Meta said, and create up to 300 operational jobs when completed.
“This is a big day for everyone involved,” said Eagle Mountain Mayor Tom Westmoreland, who has watched his small and youthful community grow dramatically since Meta first broke ground in 2018.
The mayor praised Meta’s initial spending of $120 million on road and utility services to the site and said a complicated package of state and local tax incentives proffered at the time to lure Meta to Eagle Mountain “had paid for itself.”
The company’s presence, he said, had meant a new era of economic opportunity in the region, particularly for young Eagle Mountain residents.
“We’re trying to plan a city of the future, which is something very different,” Westmoreland said, “and we could never do this on our own.”
The city’s economic development director, Evan Berrett, said Eagle Mountain is seeing “a huge surge” of retail and residential development. Tyson Foods recently announced it would open new packaging facility in Eagle Mountain, bringing up to 1,000 jobs, Berrett said — and he confirmed that Google is in talks to locate a facility in the community as well.
Meta is also giving $200,000 to ongoing efforts to restore water flows through Utah County’s Hobble Creek as part of the company’s commitment to return twice the volume of water the site consumes back to the Provo River watershed, through restoration and conservation.
The grant, to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, will restore some 467 million gallons of water to the watershed yearly, the company said, adding to other replenishing and conservation efforts it has initiated amid Utah’s drought conditions.
“It’s important to us to be good neighbors,” said William Marks, a Meta community development manager on-site at Eagle Mountain. He also noted Meta’s extensive support of educational and community programs for the Alpine School District.
Meta has adopted sustainability goals for its data centers worldwide. Still, a Salt Lake Tribune story reported in July that the 970,000-square-foot site in Eagle Mountain consumed 13.5 million gallons in the year between June 2021 and May 2022, according to information provided by the city.
Through in-house innovations in the design of its data centers, Marks said, Meta has slashed water consumption at its facilities by 80% of what typical centers use, much of that by creating an airflow and induction system to move hot and cold drafts through the building.
It also has shared the design technology with other data center operators, he said.
For Friday’s tour, Marks said, outside temperatures were cool enough the facility wasn’t using any water for cooling or its HVAC systems.
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is also involved in flow restoration on the Provo River in conjunction with the nonprofit Trout Unlimited and is a supporter of the conservancy district’s “Flip Your Strip” program, which offers incentives to residents for converting their lawns and parking strips to water-wise landscaping.
All told, Meta said, its water projects ultimately would return over 882 million gallons annually to area watersheds.
Friday’s Utah news came as Bloomberg reported that Zuckerberg had announced plans Thursday to freeze hiring and restructure some parts of the company. Any major budget cuts at the company would be among the first since its founding in 2004.