If you watch industry news about new utility-scale data center development as I do, you may have noticed that some deals are for quite large land parcels - certainly parcels that are far larger than what would be needed for the announced data center size.
It's not uncommon to see new developments in the South, midwest, and Pacific Northwest where the parcel sizes are 100 acres or more, even though an initial development of say a 40 MW facility doesn't need anywhere near that much land.
I think there are two things going on, one a minor phenomenon but the other quite telling.
The first trend is exemplified almost exclusively by Apple, because of their preferred environmental mitigation strategy. Apple needs big sites (see Maiden NC, Prineville OR and Reno NV) so that they can install solar photovoltaic arrays at a scale that meaningfully addresses their energy use.
The main trend though is room for expansion. The recent news that Google spent an astounding $2.3 billion in capital on data center projects last quarter included details that of ten or so projects, over three quarters were expansions of existing facilities.
To me that makes a lot of sense as a strategy for many of the big players: they want a geographically diverse portfolio of locations, but don't really need to go beyond a reasonable number if they can comfortably grow each one. And if they can do all of the work to develop one site that could be expanded over time (including securing crucial utility capacity), it would make all the sense in the world to do that.
You can see that strategy at work even in the collocation market, where Digital Realty Trust has developed what are essentially data center campuses, with phased construction in 20 or 40 MW increments to an eventual footprint exceeding 200 MW (in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington DC).
So for utilities courting data center development, a new question from some of the major players may be "do you have any large sites, where you could serve us tens of megawatts initially, and eventually much more?"