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Bitzero to develop Nekoma, North Dakota, landmark into secure data center

Bitzero, a bitcoin mining company, plans to develop the Cold War-era military installation into a highly secure data center for high-performance computing and data processing.

Nekoma
In this 2006 file photo, a farmer plants wheat in a field adjacent to "The Pyramid," near Nekoma, N.D.
Herald file photo by Eric Hylden.
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BISMARCK – An international data center developer appears to be on the cusp of transforming a North Dakota landmark into a highly secure data center for high-performance computing and data processing.

Gov. Doug Burgum made the announcement on Monday, July 25, that Bitzero Blockchain Inc. has executed binding agreements to acquire and develop "The Pyramid," which rises above the prairie in extreme northeastern North Dakota. Its official name is the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex.

Previously, the facility — with its 3-foot-thick walls — was part of the U.S. nuclear defense system during the Cold War.

"This is fantastic news for Cavalier County and our entire state, putting this iconic pyramid on the prairie to innovative use and further solidifying North Dakota’s status as a global hub for data center development,” Burgum said in a release sent to the media.

The site is expected to employ 35 to 50 people when operational. According to the release sent to the media Monday, waste heat captured from the data center’s servers will be used to heat an on-site greenhouse. The company also is planning an interpretive center and additional community engagement at the site, representing a total expected investment estimated by Bitzero at $500 million.

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“We are deeply grateful for Bitzero’s significant investment in our state and for the tireless efforts of the North Dakota Department of Commerce and Cavalier County Job Development Authority to secure a viable tenant and seize the potential of this historic structure," Burgum said. "This important piece of history will be restored and become a beacon for North Dakota innovation to the rest of the world.”

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Josh Teigen, director of the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development and Finance Division, called the move a "great leap forward" for the state.

“North Dakota leads the world in a variety of verticals whether it is our robust tech sector, autonomous farming or unmanned aircraft systems, and expanding highly secure data center infrastructure in our state will help support all industries and diversify our economy," Tiegen said in the release. "Bitzero’s announcement also brings together two pillars of our economy, energy and agriculture, as all waste heat from the data center will be used in an on-site greenhouse to enable North Dakota to grow crops year-round and help feed the world."

Bitzero’s bid for the site was delivered with a comprehensive Zero Carbon Displacement energy strategy, meaning the facility’s carbon footprint will be offset with use of renewable energy sources. According to the release sent to the media, the CCJDA Board of Directors voted unanimously on July 18 to accept Bitzero’s bid proposal after a presentation from Bitzero CEO Akbar Shamji.

“We in Cavalier County have taken great efforts to preserve and maintain this site with clear intentions: to use the infrastructure along with the county’s abundant resources to create jobs and to restore dignity to the history here,” Carol Goodman, a consultant to the CCJDA for the Stanley R. Mickelsen site redevelopment, said in the media release. “We have had bids and interest in the site in the past, but none came with a track record and a strategy that we could trust to meet our objectives. We look forward to supporting Bitzero and watching our collective ambitions become a reality.”

Shamji and Bitzero strategic investor Kevin O’Leary announced in June that the company had selected North Dakota for its headquarters and hub for all North American operations, with plans to build 200 megawatts of data centers in the next two to three years, as well as a graphene battery assembly and distribution hub.

Related Topics: TECHNOLOGY
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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