Facebook marks opening of sprawling New Mexico data center
LOS LUNAS, N.M. (AP) — Facebook marked the opening Thursday of a sprawling data center in New Mexico where the tech giant says servers have begun storing many of the videos, photos and other media that its 2.3 billion users have posted to the social network.
The data center is one of seven such sites for Facebook, and includes six buildings for data storage. It is situated on a patch of desert at the edge of Los Lunas, which lies just beyond the edge of New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area and along the Rio Grande.
Each of the data center’s buildings is roughly the size of four football fields and has several “data halls,” or darkened, vast rooms where Facebook plans to store dozens of rows of towering servers. Two of those halls are now in operation, while construction that began more than two years ago will continue until 2023, the company said.
“This is likely different than you expected, but you are in the cloud,” said KC Timmons, a Facebook data center operations leader said as he led a tour of the site.
The opening comes after Facebook marked its 15th anniversary recently amid an ongoing privacy scandal that has shaken the social platform. While congressional testimony in recent months has solidified how intertwined Facebook has become in people’s lives and ventures, there also has been mounting concern over past data-sharing practices.
In New Mexico, state and local officials in 2016 touted the data center as a much-needed economic boost for the area. U.S. Census figures show Los Lunas has some 15,000 residents with an average income of about $24,000.
An average of about 1,100 construction workers have been working at the Facebook site daily, and about 150 employees and contract workers are currently working desk, security and other jobs inside its one open building. Melanie Roe, a Facebook spokeswoman, said the company expects the number of employees to eventually reach 300.
In New Mexico, the Los Lunas Village Council agreed in 2016 to give up all property taxes for 30 years in exchange for annual Facebook payments that were to start at $50,000 and top out at nearly a half-million dollars.
The agreement that also involves tax breaks on billions of dollars in computer equipment over time helped the small town win over Facebook. West Jordan, Utah, had been the other finalist.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who took office in January, said Facebook had cited New Mexico’s business friendly climate, and potential for renewable energy development in selecting Los Lunas. She said that decision shows renewable resource development — one of her priorities — is necessary for attracting business.
Facebook has stated it wants of all of its operations to be reliant solely on renewable energy by 2020. At its New Mexico site, solar panels line the edge of the property.
“New Mexicans know we can be competitive,” Lujan Grisham said. “We can make it happen.”