ComEd an integral partner in suburbs' data center campuses, including on former Sears site
A number of factors contribute to the suitability of a property like the former Sears campus in Hoffman Estates for the development of data centers, but access to an extraordinary amount of electricity is one that's a make-or-break element.
And while the developer and municipality must rely on ComEd for that side of the project, the electric company's expertise doesn't make such a task easy or routine.
Reliability, rather, is the goal of all stakeholders, said Ed Sitar, ComEd senior manager of economic development.
The rising demand for data centers makes them the subject of about 50% to 60% of Sitar's time each day, and he's discussed the potential of the 273-acre Sears site with new owner Compass Datacenters for several months.
"The demand for data center space is not slowing down," he added.
Just like the Microsoft data center campus already under construction farther east in Hoffman Estates, the Compass site will require its own substation, Sitar said.
Illinois' attractiveness for data centers stems from economic incentives, an already improved power infrastructure and its being a net exporter of electricity, he said.
Furthermore, the use of clean-energy sources, including nuclear power plants and solar, is a draw for public companies with an environmental awareness that lead the data center industry, Sitar added.
Now in his 29th year at ComEd, he's witnessed the growth of that industry since its inception about 20 years ago.
"I've seen it evolve dramatically over that time," he said.
While the intricate process ahead and ongoing global supply chain issues leave ComEd unable to commit to a specific service date for the Compass site, plans are progressing in accordance with the developer's wishes, Sitar said.
The levels of power consumption for data centers are so unique that Hoffman Estates recently created a new electricity tax that would affect only such high-volume users as a funding source for a pair of replacement fire stations.
Village Director of Development Services Peter Gugliotta said there's been no evidence the tax has counteracted Hoffman Estates' efforts to market itself as a suitable place for data centers.