AEP has Solutions for Amazon Data Centers

Valued customer service along with tested and reliable power delivery solutions persuaded Amazon to build three new data centers in suburban Columbus, a $1.1 billion investment for the large Internet retailer.

Amazon’s decision to build in Columbus began in April 2014 when AEP teams from Transmission Planning, Distribution Planning, Economic and Business Development, and Customer Services launched “Project Prime,” a collaborative presentation aimed at explaining to the online retailer why the AEP service territory would be the best choice for its three future data centers.

Robust grid
Transmission Planning touted the reliability of AEP’s robust Central Ohio transmission grid and then presented detailed service options. They showed the location of service lines for the sites and discussed the timing of power delivery. The Transmission and Distribution planning teams explained their plans for speedy delivery of temporary service to each site.

Customer Services described several rate structures, and then the Economic and Business Development group compared Amazon’s potential sites around Columbus to sites outside the AEP territory. In addition to the advantages of AEP’s services, the Columbus area sites also offered Amazon the benefits of available favorable land, a large and talented labor force, and locations near major highways.

Pitch hits the mark
The collaborative presentation hit the mark, as one of the Amazon representatives would later state “…we do these things all over the world and that was the best agenda and most useful session we have had with an electric utility.”

“We had the immediate and long-term energy solutions that this customer needed for fast-track construction of its data centers,” said Jasmine Moore, AEP Transmission Planning.

When Amazon experienced zoning issues at one site, AEP Transmission quickly adapted to the customer’s needs by providing service delivery plans for an alternate site. Data centers are now under construction in suburban Dublin, New Albany and Hilliard.

Complicated projects
Temporary electric service has been delivered to the sites in various ways, with the Hilliard site being served by AEP’s mobile skid-mounted substation, a prefabricated mini-station that can be erected to provide service in several weeks.   Permanent service buildout is underway at an estimated AEP investment of $75 million.

“These are complicated projects in populated areas moving on accelerated timelines,” explained Denise Binford, project manager for AEP Transmission. “We [AEP Transmission] have the experience and the technical know-how to provide power when a customer needs it.”

The kilowatt load per square foot of a commercial data center can exceed the amount created by an equally sized office building by three times. At full operation, each site may have as many as five structures. The data centers anticipate employing about 120 people.

Central Ohio also awaits construction of two Amazon distribution centers that could bring more than 2,000 jobs to the area.  One center is expected to be served by AEP Ohio in the Etna Business Park, 40 miles east of Columbus.

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