Lancium update: Company officials outline goals, plans in Abilene – its ‘flagship’ location – Abilene Reporter-News

Lancium, a Houston-based company that expects to invest around $2.4 billion in Abilene over the next five years, has big plans, representatives told Kiwanians at a lunch meeting Thursday.

Those include making the area the company’s “flagship” as it attempts to balance the state’s energy grid and encourage development of renewable power.

More:Taylor County, Abilene announce partnership with Lancium for $2.4B data center campus

Espen Johansen, senior project manager, was among those who spoke to help those gathered at the Beehive to help them understand where the project is, where it’s going now and what it will bring to the Big Country.

The company owns about 1,045 acres on the northwest side of Abilene, south of Old Anson Road and north of Spinks Road, he said. That area is west of U.S. Highway 277 and north of Interstate 20.

The property has been annexed into the city of Abilene.

Among its first steps is modifying an existing AEP substation to take available energy out of that location and put it into a substation being built specifically for the project.

That substation will have a 200 megawatt capacity, equal to enough energy to run 40,000 houses, Johansen said.

The plan is to use that energy in data centers the company plans to create here.

“We’re in the process of doing the concrete work for the transformers and the different breakers, towers for electrical cables we need,” Johansen said, with a timetable to complete the substation buildout by the beginning of December.

Andy Schonert, director of corporate communications for Lancium, shows the growing need for electricity and renewable generation, something the company plans to capitalize on.

Running clean

Backed by support from the Abilene Development Corporation, the city of Abilene and Taylor County, the project aims to build its clean computing campus here in a number of buildings, each measuring 520 feet in length, 42 feet in width and 35 feet in height.

“Inside each of these buildings, you’re going to have space for 13,500 …. Bitcoin mining machines,” Johansen said, with each building capable of consuming up to 50 megawatts of power.

The first phase of the project will construct four buildings that will consume the energy of the 200 megawatt substation, he said.

More:Lancium: What is it exactly that energy company will do at Taylor County facility?

“For the future, we are also planning to put in a transmission line up to what is called the Mulberry Creek substation, (located) about three miles northwest of the facility,” he said, as well as another that will be used to feed even more buildings.

Overall, the company has a 20-year plan, Johansen said, Abilene becoming the “flagship” site for Texas.

“Lancium has bought a lot of properties in West Texas, but we figure Abilene is the place that is going to be our headquarters, so this is the place we’re going to put in the biggest footprint,” he said.

More:DCOA: Attracting Lancium required communication, collaboration

Many uses

The company expects a mix of customers for its services, everything from Bitcoin mining to medical research to entities producing computer graphics for animated projects, said Andy Schonert, its director of corporate communications.

Part of the company’s big picture, Schonert said, is an ongoing increase in the need to “electrify more things,” including automobiles.

That creates more demand for power generation, with most of what’s being added now in the form of renewable energy, he said.

A unique thing about West Texas, he said, is there’s a lot of renewable energy here, but not enough transmission lines to carry it to major markets such as Houston, San Antonio, Austin and elsewhere.

That creates wasted energy, reflected at times in pricing.

Lancium website

“They’ll either offer that energy at zero dollars, or in some cases negative,” he said.

That’s the landscape that attracted Lancium, Schoenert said, which intends to take advantage of the available power through energy-intensive applications, while allowing its customers to pay a much lower price such needs.

Bitcoin mining is among the facility’s plans, and is attractive because of the complexity required to “mine” the cryptocurrency, he said.

Essentially, Schoenert said, miners are trying to work out extremely complicated math problems, and the more machines being used to solve those equations, the more energy is needed to do so.

Off and on

Lancium’s difference, Schoenert and others said, is its ability to switch off what it’s doing and return power to the energy grid on the fly.

A web server running a website has to have 100% uptime, he said.

Andy Schonert, director of corporate communications for Lancium, details the company’s plans in Abilene and its attempts to balance the power grid to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Abilene Thursday.

Bitcoin mining is different in that it can be paused and machines basically are put to sleep, he said.

That “kind of makes it ideal for what we’re talking about with renewable energy,” he said. “You can sort of adjust your energy use or the facility’s energy usage based on what’s going on.”

The company argues its usage can “balance out” the power grid.

Addressing the “negative power crisis” not only helps the stability of the power grid but also encourages development of new renewable generation, the company said in a video, helping curb price spikes and avoiding power deficits should demand be high.

The company’s technology automatically reacts to events in the grid.

For example, if a large generating unit goes offline, the smart response technology will react to the disturbance within seconds, the company said.

That will drop power consumption in the facility, bringing it back on as the grid stabilizes.

“What we’re offering is the ability to quicky ramp down and then allow those other sources to supply other homes and businesses across the country,” Schoenert said. “How it all works together is something that falls to ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission on how we all work together, but a big part of it, I think, adding more flexibility to the system, is what they’re looking for.”

Original News Source