A California-based company plans to provide a $ 300 million data center on the largely empty Millinocket site of the world’s largest paper mill, marking the first new industrial tenant in the property since the paper shutdown in 2008.
Nautilus Data Technologies plans to locate its new 60-megawatt data center on 13 acres on 1,400 acres of the former Great Northern Paper Company website. The site is now owned by the non-profit volunteer group Nashite Katahdin.
The first phase of the project should start operating by the end of 2022 and could lead to 30 jobs in the region.
The company will become the site̵
Officials from Nautilus and Our Katahdin signed a 99-year lease on May 18, which allowed the development of the Millinocket site to begin immediately.
Data centers are in many ways the backbone of the Internet, with their servers protecting data and applications for people, companies and organizations around the world. Nautilus will use the Millinocket data center for cloud storage.
As the owner of the site, Our Katakhdin will continue to pay taxes on the property of the city of Milinoket for the site. Nautilus will pay taxes on the ownership of the equipment used on the data site.
Nautilus first learned about the site through our Katahdin Vice President Michael Falun, who was introduced to CEO James Connoton by a colleague about three years ago. Nautilus shared investors with Falun, Done, Falun said.
Connaughton served as a senior environmental adviser to former President George W. Bush, chairing the White House Council on Environmental Quality for both terms as Republican president.
Nautilus studied the opening of the site for about two years before more serious discussions began about a year ago, said the president of our Katahdin Sean DeWit. The company was able to focus more seriously on the Millinocket Center after the company finalized its first data center at Stockton Harbor, California, which opened earlier this year.
Several aspects made Millinocket’s location attractive to Nautilus, but the most significant could be the site’s gravitational water, which Nautilus will be able to use in its cooling system. The Brookfield Renewable Hydroelectric Dam will also be a vital source of energy for an operation that will be heavily dependent on a ready source of electricity. And the large, secure mill site around the data center can act as a security buffer.
Nautilus data centers are unique in that they use water rather than more frequent air cooling to protect servers from overheating. Water cooling is more environmentally friendly than other cooling methods, with data center cooling using 70 percent less power than a standard data center and producing more than 30 percent less carbon emissions, Nautilus officials said.
“For them, access to water was just as important as access to electricity,” DeWitt said. “And we have that gravity water that significantly reduces the operating costs of pumps and other things.”
Millinocket’s stable, cold climate was also attractive, as data center servers need to be kept cool.
The city of 4,300 people is located along the three rings of Maine, a 1,100-mile fiber-optic network that runs through many of the state’s rural areas, providing reliable and fast Internet access. In addition, doing business in the city has tax breaks for investors, as Milinoket is one of seven federal opportunity zones in Penobskot County.
The definition of an opportunity zone, part of a tax cut package signed by former President Donald Trump in 2017, allows investors who invest in projects in these areas to avoid taxes on the capital gains returned by their investments.
In a sense, Nautilus’ operations are a modern successor to the site’s centuries-old role. While the Millinocket mill was once a world leader in newsprint production, the data center will store information electronically, said Millinocket Town interim manager Richard Angotti.
Nautilus will build the center in the area of the abandoned field of the mill, the former location of paper machines when the site was in operation. The company expects to engineer the site, secure the necessary permits and begin construction this year.
Gov. Janet Mills and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will be available for Saturday’s announcement of Nautilus’ plans.
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