Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Internet companies, far from being ephemeral cyberspace creations, need elbow room in the real world — a lot of it. We're talking warehoues full of servers and processors, preferably close to high-speed fiber systems and cheap power from old-fashioned power grids. Cheap land near cheap power, in other words, says a recent article in Business Week magazine. And there are only so many places that fill that bill, like Quincy, Wash., not far from the Grand Coulee Dam. Yahoo! and Microsoft are building server farms there. Then there’s The Dalles, near its own dam, where Google has invested in a new campus. That finite amount of space that features both data and power needs may get to be hot real estate. Says the article: “You may not give it a thought while firing up a Google search, downloading a song from iTunes, or chatting on the phone via Vonage's Internet service. But all those tasks have to be processed on computers somewhere." ...

A Technology Land Rush Along the Columbia River?

Internet companies, far from being ephemeral cyberspace creations, need elbow room in the real world — a lot of it. We’re talking warehoues full of servers and processors, preferably close to high-speed fiber systems and cheap power from old-fashioned power grids.

Cheap land near cheap power, in other words, says a recent article in Business Week magazine. And there are only so many places that fill that bill, like Quincy, Wash., not far from the Grand Coulee Dam. Yahoo! and Microsoft are building server farms there. Then there’s The Dalles, near its own dam, where Google has invested in a new campus.

That finite amount of space that features both data and power needs may get to be hot real estate. Says the article:

“You may not give it a thought while firing up a Google search, downloading a song from iTunes, or chatting on the phone via Vonage’s Internet service. But all those tasks have to be processed on computers somewhere. …

“Microsoft already owns server farms that are equal in size to a dozen Madison Square Gardens and consume as much power as 100,000 homes. The company deployed more new servers in the first quarter of this year than in any full year in its history.”

Ah, supply and demand. See, power near the dams on the Columbia goes for something like 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, while Silicon Valley power is eight times that amount. So small, economically struggling towns near the dams on the Columbia Rivermight enjoy — and, if they have smart officials, encourage — a new land rush.

The closest dam to Portland and its Metro amenities is Bonneville, and it has a couple of nearby communities, like Stevenson, that would make for pleasant recreational living. The Dalles, though, and across the Columbia in Dallesport with its new industrial park, has much more land, and high-speed fiber access. With an aggressive marketing effort to Silicon Valley companies, Wasco and Klickitat Counties may have an upscale future. There’s an intuitive twining of economic strands in this vision, where three forms of power meet, the old, the current and the future: Land, electricity and data.

About Dan Richardson