Chuck Goolsbee, site director for Facebook's Prineville data centers, shows the computer servers that store users' photos and other data on Oct. 15, 2013, at the Facebook site in Prineville. [AP Photo/The Bulletin, Andy Tullis, File]

Officials unveil plan to boost town's power capacity

PRINEVILLE — Officials are working to provide Prineville with enough electricity to ensure the central Oregon community can keep powering huge data centers operated by Facebook and Apple and make room for other companies to move in.

Facebook and Apple's arrival produced a surge in electricity demand in Prineville throughout the past several years that has overwhelmed the Bonneville Power Administration's transmission capacity, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

But BPA is now working on a plan that calls for doubling Prineville's capacity for electricity within a few years. The plan, presented to city and economic development officials last week, would involve upgrading electrical substations and changing how the federal agency manages power on its grid.

Under the proposal, the region's capacity would start increasing in 2019 from 560 megawatts to 1,145 megawatts.

"We're excited we've got a path forward, which is obviously key," said Roger Lee, director of Economic Development for Central Oregon.

Long-term requirements for the plan may involve bringing a new transmission line into the area, a project BPA acknowledged "would be a significant challenge" and take more than six years to complete.

The city had first learned of its power troubles last year after an unidentified manufacturer proposed bringing 300 jobs to Prineville to build an energy-intensive factory. City officials wanted to keep the company interested in the community, prompting BPA to start considering its options to address the electricity needs.

It is not clear whether the company will still be interested in the city by the time Prineville's capacity for electricity has been expanded.

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