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Amazon purchases data center in region

The Susquehanna Steam Electric Station.
Talen Energy
The Susquehanna Steam Electric Station.

When that photo you just took of your cat gets uploaded onto the cloud, it doesn’t just go into the ether. It goes to one of many servers at one of many data centers.

That chatbot you’re asking to write your resume? It’s pulling information out of a data center.

“Treat it as a warehouse of just an enormous amount of data," said Brian King, associate professor of computer science at Bucknell University. He also researches large-scale sequential data analysis and mining.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently acquired the Cumulus Data Center for $650 million from Talen Energy. The energy company operates the neighboring Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Salem Twp. The 1,200-acre data center will use carbon-free energy from the power plant.

King is not surprised that Amazon needs more storage. While the company is often thought of as e-commerce, AWS is a big part of their business.

AWS is a cloud-platform which provides organizations of all sizes technology services, including generative AI.

"Amazon's a big player in the space. And so they realized that in order to continue to remain relevant, they're going to need to have places to store lots of data," he said.

King said individualized, targeted ads are simple compared to what generative AI can do — think ChatGPT or even the chat options now available on many commerce sites.

Data centers also require a lot of power. They consume 10 to 50 times the energy per floor space of a typical commercial office building, according to U.S. Department of Energy. Data centers account for around 2% of the total U.S. electricity use.

Talen also benefits from the sale. The company will bring in additional revenue because of the center’s carbon-free energy — that's energy generated without burning fossil fuels.

Amazon is aiming for net-zero carbon emissions across their operations by 2040.

Both companies are anticipating the new data center will create jobs and increase economic development in the region.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org