Canadian Manufacturing

Apple to turn failed Arizona sapphire glass plant into data centre

Maker of iPhones, iPads said it will invest US$2 billion over 10 years to convert plant to data centre



PHOENIX—Tech giant Apple Inc. said it will invest US$2 billion over 10 years to open a data centre in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Ariz., that will be the company’s fifth in the United States and serve as a control facility for the other four.

The announcement comes four months after an earlier Apple plan for the 1.3 million-sq.ft. facility it bought in 2013 failed.

Apple had a deal with Merrimack, N.H.-based GT Advanced Technologies, Inc. to use the plant to make sapphire glass for its products, but the company declared bankruptcy in October after production issues developed.

GT openly accused Apple of using a “classic bait-and-switch strategy” with a deal that it called “massively one-sided.”

Apple lawyers accused GT of making false statements about the deal, among other allegations.

After the GT failure, Apple said it would work to find another use for the plant.

It also has been working to help more than 600 GT employees who lost their jobs.

“This multi-billion dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made, and when completed it will add over 600 engineering and construction jobs to the more than one million jobs Apple has already created in the U.S.,” Apple said in a statement.

“Like all Apple data centres, it will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, much of which will come from a new local solar farm.”

An Apple spokesperson said construction on the new data centre should start late next year, if not earlier.

GT is storing advanced furnaces it planned to use in its Apple venture at the plant while the furnaces are being liquidated, delaying the immediate use of the plant.

The company said in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing that it will use the proceeds of the furnace sell-off to repay US$439 million Apple gave GT to outfit the plant.

Apple expects 150 permanent workers at the site, in addition to construction crews and contractors.

Apple’s data centres provide the computer muscle for its iCloud, ITunes, Siri and other products.

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