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Vista Projects
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Vista Projects

Tech Firms Ask NextEra for Enough Electricity to Power Entire Cities

These translations are done via Google Translate
  • AI is fueling a boom in the development of US data centers
  • CEO says NextEra would consider restarting a nuclear plant

Technology companies are so desperate to build massive data centers in the US that they’re asking clean-energy giant NextEra Energy Inc. to find them locations with enough electricity to power entire cities.

“We’ve had some come to us and say, ‘Can you show us sites that can accommodate 5 gigawatts of demand?’” John Ketchum, Florida-based NextEra’s chief executive officer, said in an interview at Bloomberg News in New York on Wednesday. “Think about that. That’s the size of powering the city of Miami.” Ketchum declined to name the companies.

That much power — roughly the equivalent of five nuclear reactors, or enough to power almost 3 million homes — would require a mix of new wind and solar farms, battery storage and a connection to the grid, Ketchum said. He added that finding a site that could accommodate 5 gigawatts would take some work, but there are places in the US that can fit one gigawatt.

Power consumption in the US is soaring, driven in part by new data centers needed for artificial intelligence, high-speed streaming and remote work. A boost in domestic manufacturing and the electrification of vehicles and other sectors is also fueling the jump. While the demand surge is fueling a boom in clean-energy generation, it’s also spurring plans for new fossil-fuel plants, complicating climate goals.

The demand spike has even led NextEra to consider restarting the Duane Arnold nuclear plant in Iowa, which shut down in 2020 after its biggest customer opted to exit its power-purchase agreement. More than a dozen US reactors have shut since 2013 as operators struggled to compete against cheaper power from natural gas and renewables, but with consumption soaring there’s now talk that some of them could reopen.

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Ketchum said he’s had inquiries from potential data center customers that could be interested in taking advantage of the 600-megawatt Duane Arnold reactor. “I would consider it, if it could be done safely and on budget,” he said.

The CEO said he expects an almost 40% rise in US power demand over the next two decades, compared with just 9% over the previous 20 years. Renewable energy will meet most of the consumption boost because new gas-fired plants are much more expensive, take too long to connect to the grid and have to be supplied by hard-to-build gas pipelines, he said.

He said that adding battery storage to wind and solar farms can make those carbon-free sources almost as reliable in providing around-the-clock power as fossil fuels are.

“If I want to pay double, I can go with a gas-fired plant,” Ketchum said.

NextEra is the world’s largest non-government-backed developer of wind and solar energy, behind only major Chinese state-owned companies. The company has a pipeline of about 300 gigawatts of renewable and storage projects.

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