(Photo credit: Philip N. Cohen)

ITHACA, N.Y. –– Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) was awarded over $400,000 this week to help convert the old Cayuga Power Plant in Lansing into a new data center to house large scale computing and networking equipment.

The new $404,170 in funding awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), via their POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative –– an initiative aimed at helping communities and regions affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries –– will go towards building a 17-mile fiber broadband extension from Ithaca to the recently retired coal plant in Lansing.

Dubbed the “Cayuga Data Juice Broadband Connectivity” project, the endeavor seeks to bring network infrastructure into the rural part of Lansing that will be home to the new data center. According to Heather McDaniel, the president of TCAD, the new infrastructure will also benefit residents in the area that have traditionally been left behind in terms of internet service.

“With the announcement from the ARC that TCAD has been granted $404,170 to extend broadband fiber cabling from Ithaca to the former power plant in Lansing, slated to be a new data center, such access may now become a reality,” McDaniel said. “We are excited that ARC’s support will enable this ‘middle mile’ trunk line up the east side of Cayuga Lake to ensure the success of the data center and offer inter-connection points to communities along the route.”

The potential data center, owned by Heorot Power Management, hopes to provide capacity for large volumes of cloud storage, artificial intelligence development and big data modeling, according to HPM’s Vice President of Development Jerry Goodenough. Examples of what the data center looks to do include predicting component failure in manufacturing, modeling crop production, or mapping bird migrations.

In response to public skepticism last year, HPN specified that they do not intend to support cyber-currencies like bitcoin.

In terms of this latest development in the ongoing Cayuga plant project, Goodenough has stressed that the broadband extension is crucial to the viability of the project –– a project that he has said in the past will bring not only technological advancement but also significant environmental benefits to the Lansing area.

“Heorot Power Management applauds Tompkins County Area Development on winning the ARC award and commends its leadership throughout the application process,” said Goodenough “Data centers rely on high-speed interconnection capability.  As all local stakeholders work to transition this retired coal site in Lansing into a modern data center location coupled with a large-scale solar farm, the broadband project will be a critical part of its success.”

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com