FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Not much information has been released about “Project Zodiac”, the name given to a data center proposed for 728 acres near Fort Wayne and New Haven, since plans were announced in October. That’s changing as of Thursday where details are emerging at a public hearing to address rezoning of the mostly agricultural area.
Project Zodiac, if approved, will be built by a yet unnamed Fortune 100 company. The 800+ acre plot of land is located just west of Adams Center Road, north of Tillman and bordered by railroad tracks on the east. Thursday morning, Fort Wayne City Council approved the annexation of 728 unincorporated acres of that land.
In simple terms, a data center is a building or buildings that house IT infrastructure for building, running, and delivering applications and services, and for storing and managing the data associated with those applications and services. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are just a few of the major companies that use data centers extensively. A data center comes into play every time someone accesses the internet.
Documents show an Ohio-based company called EMH&T is listed as the project’s engineer and surveyor. The same company provided planning and design on a Google data center based in New Albany, Ohio, as well as a Facebook data center nearby.
Tom Trent, a lawyer representative of the project, gave a presentation at the joint Fort Wayne and Allen County Zoning Departments public hearing and addressed some of the concerns voiced by citizens over noise and the environmental impact.
“It is our position that the noise factor is substantially, if not completely, mitigated,” Trent said.
Trent said the project does not anticipate a decline in property values of nearby homes, but detailed statistics were not immediately available. It will be comprised of 12 buildings and will be virtually invisible from the public because of extensive landscaping.
As for the enormous amount of electricity necessary to power a data center, the team representing the still unnamed client says it’s working directly with Indiana Michigan Power to make sure the usage doesn’t adversely impact the power grid.
I&M confirmed to WANE 15 on Friday that officials are coordinating with Project Zodiac to help with its power needs.
“Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) and our parent company, American Electric Power (AEP), have a very robust transmission system more than capable of serving large industrial and commercial operations with a need for high volumes of electricity,” the company said. “I&M and AEP have been coordinating with Project Zodiac on its electric needs. I&M’s transmission system, which serves major industries such as SDI and General Motors, is already capable of serving the initial phases of the proposed data center without impacting our existing customers.”
Officials also addressed water usage concerns at Thursday’s meeting.
“This project will use water as the primary source of cooling,” said Todd Cunningham, director of development at EMH&T, Inc. “One of these buildings on a peak day will use a substantial amount of water.”
Cunningham also said the company behind the data center has shared its need for water with Fort Wayne City Utilities and that the city is “aligned” with what the project will need.
The facility is also seeking a waiver that would allow the facility to have buildings up to 75 feet tall, nearly double the current 40-foot limit currently imposed.
The caveat is that the structures would be held to different standards.
“A building in excess of the 40 feet would not be permitted until a 250-foot setback was achieved from a residential structure,” Trent said.
While it’s not a certainty that the data center will exceed 75 feet in height, the measure would make it easier for future development.
“The intention of this is to help preserve flexibility that would support the full development of this site as the technology that the client uses changes,” Cunningham said.
The meeting opened up to public comment around 2:30 p.m., and many residents shared their concerns about the potential impact of the project.