Lancium, a Houston-based company that plans to invest about $2.4 billion in Abilene over the next five years, has big plans, representatives told Kiwanians at a lunch meeting Thursday.
These include making the region the company’s “flagship” as it tries to balance the state’s energy grid and encourage the development of renewable energy.
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Senior Project Manager Espen Johansen was among those who spoke to help those gathered at the Beehive understand where the project stands, where it is 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. This area is west of US Highway 277 and north of Interstate 20.
The property was annexed to the city of Abilene.
One of the first steps is to modify an existing AEP substation to extract available energy from that location and put it into a substation built specifically for the project.
This substation will have a capacity of 200 megawatts, enough power to run 40,000 homes, Johansen said.
The plan is to use this energy in the data centers the company plans to create here.
“We are doing the physical work for the transformers and the various circuit breakers, the towers for the electrical cables that we need,” Johansen said, with a schedule to complete construction of the substation in early December.
Backed by support from the Abilene Development Corporation, the City of Abilene and Taylor County, the project aims to build its own computing campus here in a number of buildings, each measuring 520 feet long, 42 feet high wide and 35 feet high.
“Inside each of these buildings, you’re going to have room 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 consist of constructing four buildings that will consume power from the 200 megawatt substation, he said.
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“Going forward, we also plan to install a transmission line to what is called the Mulberry Creek substation, (located) about three miles northwest of the facility,” said he said, along with another that will be used to power even more buildings.
Overall, the company has a 20-year plan, Johansen said, with Abilene becoming Texas’ “flagship” location.
“Lancium has bought a lot of properties in West Texas, but we think Abilene is where our headquarters is going to be, so that’s where we’re going to put the biggest footprint,” a- he declared.
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The company expects a mix of customers for its services, ranging from bitcoin mining to medical research to entities producing infographics for animated projects, said Andy Schonert, its director of corporate communications. .
Part of the bigger business picture, Schonert said, is a continued increase in the need to “electrify more things,” including automobiles.
This creates greater demand for electricity generation, most of which is added now as renewable energy, he said.
One thing unique about West Texas, he said, is that there is plenty of renewable energy here, but not enough transmission lines to get it to major markets such as Houston. , San Antonio, Austin and elsewhere.
This creates a waste of energy, which is sometimes reflected in the prices.
“They will either offer this energy at zero dollars or in some cases in negative,” he said.
It was the landscape that attracted Lancium, said Schoenert, which aims to leverage the power available through power-hungry applications, while allowing its customers to pay a much lower price for such needs.
Bitcoin mining is part of the facility’s plans and is attractive due to the complexity required to “mine” the cryptocurrency, he said.
Essentially, Schoenert said, miners are trying to solve extremely complicated mathematical problems, and the more machines used to solve these equations, the more energy it takes to do so.
What makes Lancium different, according to Schoenert and others, is its ability to shut down what it’s doing and send power back to the power grid on the fly.
A web server running a website should have 100% uptime, he said.
Bitcoin mining is different in that it can be interrupted and machines are essentially put to sleep, he said.
That “kinda makes it ideal for what we’re talking about with renewables,” he said. “You can kind of adjust your power usage or the power usage of the facility based on what’s going on.”
The company says its use can “balance” the power grid.
Tackling the “negative energy crisis” not only contributes to the stability of the electricity grid, but also encourages the development of new renewable energy production, the company said in a video, helping to curb the price spikes and to avoid power shortages if demand were high.
The company’s technology automatically reacts to network events.
For example, if a large production unit goes offline, the smart response technology will react to the disruption within seconds, the company said.
This will reduce power consumption in the facility, bringing it back as the grid stabilizes.
“What we’re offering is the ability to quickly slow 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 is up to ERCOT and the Public Utilities Commission on how we all work together, but a big part of that, I think, is adding more flexibility to the system, is that they are looking for.”