World’s largest industrial park takes shape in Nevada

The 43,000ha Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in the US state of Nevada is developing into the world’s largest business park, with more than 160 companies already leasing space there and work underway on the biggest factory and the biggest server farm in the world.

Among the vast structures rising up in the park’s lunar landscape is Tesla Motors’ $5bn Gigafactory 1, which will make lithium-ion batteries, and the $3bn SuperNAP Tahoe Reno data centre complex, which will cover an area of 60ha when fully built out.

At Tahoe Reno Industrial Centre, if a building’s under 1 million square feet, it’s kind of cute– Adam Kramer, Switch Communication

When complete in 2016 or 2017, the Gigafactory will produce 500,000 lithium-ion batteries a year, making it the largest such plant in the world.

The batteries will power Tesla’s electric vehicles and its Powerwall home battery system.

A view of the present state of the factory can be seen in this quadcopter video, uploaded to YouTube in September.

The Gigafactory might get even bigger. In June 2015, Tesla announced that it had exercised an option to buy 750ha of land next to its site, nearly tripling its footprint, prompting media speculation that the company might double the size of its factory. A Tesla Motors spokesperson said only: "The purchase gives us the opportunity for future growth."

In return for choosing Nevada for its factory, Tesla was offered $1.2bn in tax breaks over the next 20 years by governor Brian Sandoval. This allows Tesla to operate almost tax-free for its first 10 years. In return it will invest a minimum of $3.5bn in the state.

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic is also investing up to $2bn in the plant, because it makes cells for the battery.

Big, big data

Another key facility under construction is the 60ha SuperNAP data centre campus, being developed by Las Vegas technology company Switch Communication. 

Gigafactory 1 in November last year (Tesla Motors)

The campus is planned eventually to comprise seven huge buildings, each built on a 12m-high concrete pad to protect the precious servers from floods.

Covering 11ha, the first phase is the Tahoe Reno 1, which will be the world’s largest single-building data centre.

Around 1,000 construction workers are on site now. Its concrete pad was finished in August. It is expected to be operational next September.

When all seven phases are complete, the Tahoe Reno SuperNAP campus will dwarf Switch’s 12ha Las Vegas SuperNAP site, now America’s biggest by area, and it will surpass the 58.5ha cloud hub being built by Range International and IBM in Langfang, China.

Adam Kramer, Switch’s vice president of strategy, told the Reno Gazette-Journal: "You’re going to have the largest manufacturing facility in the world and the largest data centre right across each other. This community is not going to be the same community, and we’re seeing this as we talk to tech companies looking at the area."

He added: "At Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, if a building’s under 1 million square feet [9.3ha], it’s kind of cute."

Tesla Motors’ rendition of the completed factory (Tesla Motors)

The anchor tenant of the Tahoe Reno campus will be e-commerce company eBay.

Nevada awarded an estimated $229m in sales and property-tax breaks to Switch as an incentive to develop server farms in Las Vegas and Reno.

Tahoe-Reno’s facilities include Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway services and five on-site power stations producing more than 900MW. Among the existing tenants are Kal-Kan, Wal-Mart, Dell Computers and Toys R Us.

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