Hillsboro Becomes National Power In The Data Center Game As Massive Buildings Take Over The Skyline

CBRE Report Shows Just How Big Hillsboro's Share Has Become

You have all seen them if you have been out and about.  If not, head to NW Brookwood near Top Golf and head North or West. You will witness the spectacle of the Data Center Plains – I call it this because these behemoth gulag-looking energy gulpers cover vast acres of formerly pristine farmland known as the Tualatin Plains, which was the first place of settlement in the Pacific NW.  Hillsboro, Oregon, is already known as the Silicon Forest due to Intel and the many tech firms here. But it just so happens that at least four intercontinental fiber communication bundles run right through our valley.  Now, Data Centers are rising all over North Hillsboro, vaulting our town into the National spotlight.  And there is no end to how many of these structures and facilities filled with tens of thousands of high-speed computers will be built.

Photo Courtesy Of Google Earth

About 15 major Data Centers are in Hillsboro now; by our count, another ten are on the way. This sudden build-up surprised planners and landowners.  Management officials I have met on-site indicated that once these buildings are full of computers and running, they will never go offline.  One source told me these were better than owning truckloads or gold- “You can hold a 10-gallon hat upside down in there and fill it with money from now ’till eternity”.  That is a lot of money, folks.

Here are the latest facts in the news this past week-

Hillsboro’s Data Center Market Booms in 2023

Hillsboro’s data center market experienced explosive growth in 2023, solidifying its position as a major player in the U.S. Here are some key highlights:

  • Massive Construction Boom: With a staggering 280.8 megawatts (MW) under construction by year-end, Hillsboro’s data center inventory is poised to more than double, according to a report just issued by CBRE.
  • Rising Prices and Low Vacancy: Average asking prices climbed to $147.5 per kW/month, reflecting increased demand. Additionally, absorption reached a four-year high in the latter half of 2023 (93.3 MW), pushing vacancy rates down to a four-year low of just 2.5%.
  • Market Share and Preleasing: Hillsboro’s data center stock now represents 5.1% of the total primary market inventory. Notably, nearly all (93.4%) of the space under construction has already been preleased, highlighting strong tenant interest.
  • Rapid Growth: Hillsboro’s inventory has skyrocketed 334% since 2020, reaching 262.4 MW by year-end. This surge is attributed to the ongoing construction boom, exemplified by Aligned Data Centers’ groundbreaking on a 72 MW project.

Despite power supply limitations, Hillsboro’s data center market thrived in 2023, attracting significant investment and becoming a highly sought-after location.

 

A recent Data Center just completed along NE Huffman Drive, just West of Brookwood. Note the backup generators and roof-mounted AC Units.
Another view of QTS Hillsboro- Photo Google Earth

Nationally, We Are In Big Trouble – The Power Grids Are Running Dry – Is Crypto Currency And AI The Culprit?

We are a pretty caring community- I find the people of Hillsboro, whom I have known all my life, to be very smart.  They have horse sense- or at least the ones who were raised here in our famous agrarian community.  Times change everywhere, and they have changed here, too.  Now, step back and look at these buildings.  Listen to them hum- and it is loud if you get close.  What are those machines doing?  Artificial Intelligence is among us, and many of you will not have a job or the job you have in a few short years- maybe even months.  We are in a time of incredible changes.

Those machines are working – doing jobs many of you do or have done.  And they are doing work for companies in China, Russia, and all over the world that have not one thing to do with Hillsboro, Oregon, Washington County, or even the State of Oregon.  Be awakened.  This is not some crackpot idea.  This is happening and we are at ground zero!

The Washington Post is so worried about this that it conducted a groundbreaking research project on AI, BitCoin Mining, and our existing power grids.

AI is also part of a huge scale-up of cloud computing. Tech firms like Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft are scouring the nation for sites for new data centers, and many lesser-known firms are also on the hunt.  The proliferation of crypto-mining, in which currencies like bitcoin are transacted and minted, is also driving data center growth.  It is all putting new pressures on an overtaxed grid — the network of transmission lines and power stations that move electricity around the country. Bottlenecks are mounting, leaving both new generators of energy, particularly clean energy, and large consumers facing growing wait times for hookups.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2024/03/07/ai-data-centers-power/

Texas and other States have suffered rolling blackouts. If things keep going this way, there is no reason we should not be subjected to the same things. And are your power rates going up?  Do you realize you all pay a much different rate than these huge corporate consumers?  You do.

So if AI and BitCoin mining are using most of our power and altering our world for the worse, is this something we want to be complicit in promoting?  How foolish are we?  Boy, this is some tough stuff to get our hands around.

Hillsboro, Oregon is a stopping point for many Submarine Cables of Fiber Optic bundles that come from around the world on the ocean floor in our town. From here, and with the help of the massive Data Center build-up, Hillsboro, Oregon, is now the gateway to the future.  Map courtesy of https://www.submarinecablemap.com/landing-point/hillsboro-or-united-states

What Benefit Does Hillsboro Get?

We asked the question, and the answer was crickets.  Basically, these monstrous facilities are needed so people can order goods off Amazon, death scroll their Instagram and Facebook walls, and Bit-Coin mining.  None of that does anything for the good people of Hillsboro or Washington County.  Yes, there are many short-lived construction jobs.  But those quickly fade.  Once completed, these facilities will employ relatively no one per square foot.  This was not the “High-paying jobs” promised when all this farmland entered the urban growth boundary.

Power?  They are using so much power that all of us put together in Hillsboro will use a fraction of what the Data Centers Use.  The PGE and BPA infrastructure to power them is immense, and we may face issues as we go forward regarding rates, who gets power priority, and other known problems.

Prices have skyrocketed for industrial land in our community directly because Data Center developers have bid the value up! The sites they seek must be close to the transatlantic/transpacific cables and primary power supplies. Industrial land was selling here for $250,000 per acre not even five years ago and is now trading at over $1 million per acre in many cases. Local communities must question the overall effects of Data Centers. The people of Hillsboro and Washington County certainly do not receive much, if any, benefit from these facilities.

One thing is for sure: With the recent growth in Data Centers, Hillsboro, Oregon, is once again on the National radar for industry and growth, and there is no sign of this stopping!

Read This: 

Read Our Story From 2022- Data Centers Replace Jobs With Machines As Farmland Rolls Under Forever

 

 

What do you Think?  Weigh In Below o be heard!

 

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Comments 33

  1. Mark Ostertag says:

    Very educational. I wasn’t aware that Hillsboro was near transatlantic cables.
    My family moved here from the Ashburn, VA area several years ago, where numerous of these data farms already exist. They’re easy to spot: huge facilities with only about 20 parking spaces, of which there never seems to be more than 6 cars. On the positive side; they don’t impact traffic very much and are one of the cleaner businesses you can have in your community.

  2. jo Hendrickson says:

    This is exactly why I didn’t move back to Hillsboro when I retired. The powers that be don’t give two whits about the people that live there, or the destruction of the once beautiful agricultural countryside. It is sickening, and zero people in Hillsboro benefit from the destruction.

    • Dirk Knudsen says:

      I am one of the last people from my High School class of 1,000 kids to still be here- most are long gone.

  3. Dan jones says:

    It’s interesting that there’s a focus on developing industrial land, with so much seemingly suitable property available. The area between NW Jackson School Road and NW Glencore Road appears prime real estate for residential development. While there are businesses like Intel nearby, they’re not located within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), which seems illogical. This location is close to the freeway, offering a convenient commute. However, they’re choosing to develop elsewhere, forcing residents to commute long distances. Developing this area would allow people to walk or bike to work.

    • Dirk Knudsen says:

      Dan, That would make so much sense. In the past the Urban Growth Boundaries have been all but impossible to move. Putting all those new homes, 8,000 of them, in South Hillsboro is going to destroy our traffic grids here and it is already happening. Homes up wind of the FABS along Evergreen would make all sorts of sense. You are spot on!

      Thanks for reading- keep commenting!

      Dirk

    • Jason Flint says:

      That was the talk here not long ago: More housing, more amenities, walkable neighborhoods… proximity to existing schools and improved bike and transit infrastructure to a revitalized Downtown Hillsboro.

      That makes sense directly across the street from neighborhoods, schools and churches… and makes sense for the commute you just described. Imagine Evergreen with actual connected sidewalks and bike lanes.

      But that’s no longer the discussion we’re hearing. When the landowners up here signed on to sell initially, they envisioned neighborhoods and shops and trails. The current scenario is far different, and I’m not surprised we’re hearing more pushback all of a sudden.

      We’ve already passed $1 million per acre down the road. Now that the neighborhood plsn has given over to fabs and scrubbers by schools and over farmland and habitats? That price is going up.

  4. GerardW says:

    I live in Ashburn and the demand for electrical power for datacenters is huge, at 3.1 GW they use 15%of Virginia’s electricity 24/7/365. But that is just the start by 2032 the committed build out will grow to 10.969 GW. Initial planning has started with Dominion Energy for this to grow to 19.627 GW by 2038. A seven fold increase.
    Al this comes with the need to grow High Voltage transmission lines (500kV towers) on new rights of way through rural farmland.
    And don’t think you can power these with wind or solar, that would take hundreds of thousands of acres (multiple counties) of farmland. The datacenters want nuclear, maybe Small Modular Reactors, but more likely 1.2 GW APA1000s.
    Be careful with industrial “by right” zoning, and rezoning of residential land. Loudoun County has already enough “by right” land zoned for datacenters for this to grow to 31 GW, and this land now trades at $4 million per acre.

    • Dirk Knudsen says:

      So Virginia is the Center for Data Centers I am learning. Is this because of our government uses and National Defense? I would like to know what your power rates are there – can you check your bill and let us know? Might help us a lot going forward to understand what is happening!

      Thanks for coming!
      Dirk

      • GerardW says:

        Residential is 15.5 c / kWh, datacenters pay 8 c / kWh. But with Virginia demand set to grow from 20 GW to 40 GW in 15 years rates will double. By my estimates 70% of this cost increase is datacenter growth and 30% Clean Energy Policy (decommissioning cheap Nat Gas).

        But at least as big an issue is building HV Transmission (500kV) and needing new rights of way to bring in all the power. The grid gets maxed out and at times the backup diesel generators have to run to prevent a brownout.

        Ashburn used to be quite rural, now it is dozens of large, gray, windowless boxes with HVAC and diesel generators.

        • Dirk Knudsen says:

          I will Zoom on on Google Earth and take a look at what is happening there

        • DC Guy says:

          Gerard,
          How much has power rates increased in the last 10 years? Hell the last 3 years. Part of it is inflation. Part of it is bad politics and corporate greed. Don’t blame 100% of cost increase on one thing.
          Ashburn is one of the richest cities in the area. Loudoun county – highest median income in the state. I’m sure you are enjoying the equity in your home in Ashburn.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Virginia_locations_by_per_capita_income

          Rank. County Houshold Population
          Median income
          1 Arlington County $57,724 $94,880 $126,947 207,627. 98,050
          2 Falls Church City $55,389 $114,409 $142,035 12,332 5,101
          3 Alexandria City $54,345 $80,847 $102,017 139,966 68,082
          4 Fairfax County $49,001 $105,416. $124,316 1,081,726 391,627
          5 Loudoun County $45,356. $115,574. $130,432 312,311. 104,583

      • GMR says:

        Virginia is the headquarters of AOL, so it’s where the internet started, basically. That’s why its the most connected area.

        • Dirk Knudsen says:

          Maybe you are right… doesn’t change the facts that they have had many negative impacts in those communities.

          “But there’s more to being the data center capital of the world than just raking in cash. To drive through Data Center Alley is to witness suburban sprawl on steroids, with its attendant deforestation, loss of farmland and loss of wildlife habitat. The environmental destruction doesn’t stop at a facility’s property line; a single building covers acres of land, causing massive rainwater runoff problems that can impact streams and drinking water resources miles downstream.

          Right now Virginia is operating on auto-pilot, paying ever more in tax incentives and fueling conflict, sprawl and carbon emissions. That needs to change.”
          https://www.insidenova.com/opinion/guest-opinion-yes-virginia-we-have-a-data-center-problem/article_c562eb50-93af-11ed-8477-1f3551592eaf.html

  5. Thomas Woody says:

    I have lived in the Beaverton-Hillsboro area since 1973. Graduated from Southern Oregon College in 1971 with a degree in physics/chemistry.. I worked at Tektronix and Intel spin offs until 2014. I remember when 185th was a 2 lane rural road in nowhere.

    Intel in Aloha was not even there. All the area was farmland…filbert trees and simple crops.

    My first home, in Aloha..Willow Creek was a 3br,1500 sqft starter for $22,000 which today market’s for about $150,000 or more.

    Wow…it is amazing how much has changed!
    I love the northwest and would not change anything. The concern I have is where will we be in the next 10-20 years. Scary…I would not want my children to have to face the next 5-10 years!

    • Dirk Knudsen says:

      You are in good company! I appreciate you posting. Please continue to do so.

    • Jacob says:

      I would love to see a house for 150k they are closer to 500k now

  6. Guess Who says:

    I worked for one of the high tech companies that came to Oregon in the early ’70s. Believe me when I say they don’t give a whit about their employees. Only what they can get out of them. When it is convenient and their is a down turn you are expendable and like garbage it is time to go away. None of the high tech companies in Hillsboro are innocent. They use our people, land, and natural resources. We all pay. This is not what we signed up for.

  7. Jeff says:

    Heartbreaking that we value data centers over this highly productive farmland … and for what? No long term jobs. This is not going to end well. Human beings are so focused on money we just can’t get out of our own way.

    • Audrey says:

      I total agree that some humans are ruining what Hillsboro was all about. When I first came here 20 years ago l drove up from the freeway on a two Lane Rd. l saw the beautiful Farms. One farm stood out. It had people flowerpots out in front, that was the last brick home to go. Going by made me smiled every time I went by, they’re gone and all the other beautiful homes are gone.

  8. Sam says:

    Instead of bringing companies which bring jobs, these data centers should be placed in rural areas not taking over buildings in our silicon forest.

  9. Sam Dilla says:

    Instead of bringing companies which bring jobs, these data centers should be placed in rural areas not taking over buildings in our silicon forest.

  10. Rich says:

    Excellent article!! The simple fact that these facilities produce practically no jobs should be written in all caps. We need to make modifications to the taxes the companies pay and their cost of utilities based upon the number of good paying jobs they bring to the area. We should also not be using high quality farm land — we can live without AI and we can most certainly live without cryptocurrencies but we can not live without affordable healthy food.

  11. DC Guy says:

    Dirk needs to dig a bit deeper and understand more about the industry before criticizing everything. Did you ask any of the data centers for an interview prior to writing this article? Do you know they are required by PGE to go off grid and run on generator during peak power usage to ensure the grid operates as expected? Do you know many of the companies pay property taxes on the millions of dollars of equipment they keep in the buildings? Do you know the jobs created are not “Near zero”?

    Sam – Data centers are everywhere – Look at Prineville, The Dalles, Quincy and Wenatchee Washington. These buildings were not “taken over” they were purpose built and approved by your local government. The market is massive around the globe for data centers. Everything you use now days has data, apps or internet connectivity. It’s unfortunately where we are today.

    It is sad to see all that farmland go away. Hillsboro isn’t what it was 10 years ago. Can’t imagine what it was like 20 years ago.

  12. Bill T. says:

    I bicycle past those buildings often, and one thing that has always bugged me is that they are all in the market for green power yet there’s not a single solar panel amongst them. Dirk’s article makes me less annoyed, though — I had assumed that the truck-sized metal containers outside the building were air conditioners, not generators.

    Still, those data centers could have put generators on the north side of the building, keeping them cool, and putting solar on the south side and get clean electricity that they could feed directly to the servers. That’d be far more efficient than contracting for solar power generated in eastern Oregon or wherever.

    • DC GUY says:

      BIll,
      Each of the buildings in the first picture are ~25 MW of power. How many solar panels would that take?

      Give them credit for trying – https://qtsdatacenters.com/company/corporate-sustainability/sustainability
      Something is better than nothing.

      • Jason Flint says:

        “Credit for trying.” Then you posted from their PR page like the flack you are.

        I hope you draw a paycheck for this.

        • Jacob says:

          Dirk, why is it you won’t post any of my thoughts that are contrary to your opinion? I try to call out Jason Flint here for being disrespectful, and you just delete my comment??? Really shows your character here.

          • Dirk Knudsen says:

            Jacob;

            You account was never deleted. That is a false statement – in fact it is a lie. I have no idea about your opinions. You can question my character- I care not for what you think. This is one of the only online media forums that allows comments. You are allowed to have yours. But I must ask you to clarify who you are and where you live. Our systems show you are not in Oregon and there is no public footprint for your email address. Your right to comment here is our decision, not yours. So fire away- you will be delted and banned if you are disrepectful or inappropriate in any way.

  13. Bill says:

    Interesting. 20 years ago I was working as the Director of Planning and Environmental Services for PNW/Regional land use, consulting, engineering and survey firm based in Hillsboro. So storage of stuff is now the economics of the future for Washington County and the Hillsboro region. Endless, monotonous structures with no architecture or integrity housing no one. Farmland Protection is no longer the topic of concern for the citizens. The protection of rural vistas, wildlife habitat, water sheds and open space is apparently only important until it’s replaced with a sexier view and dollars for a few. So let’s look at the new Comp Plan and place ourselves in Hillsboro, Beaverton, Banks, Vernonia or Forest Grove 30 years in the future and describe the communities and region we are now looking at and where the Comprehensive Plan and this model for economic growth and development took everyone.

    • Dirk Knudsen says:

      You are speaking my language good Sir. What wad the point of all the hard work we have done since 1977 of this is the outcome? And even the Denocratic majority has shown the towel in for MONEY!! It makes no sense!!!

  14. Ned C says:

    Dirk–Thank you for your insightful and alarming articles. I am pretty well read, or so I thought, and was clueless about the data center expansion here in Washington County. “We” or “they” are making commitments right now to support a worldwide digital economy that may provide little overall benefit to our communities, all the while consuming more and more of our valuable Northwest power and water resources. To what end? Keep the conversation going, and how to help. Thank you.

    • Dirk Knudsen says:

      You bet, Ned. They are changing the world and the communities where they take over- not all for the better as you can see.

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