Investment

A 6th generation ranching family, data centres, and a novel impact investment idea

Members of a mid-west American ranching family who tace their wealth back six generations are behind a novel data centre development and impact investment solution in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming. 

Siblings Brady, Trenton, and Colleen Thornock last year set up Wyoming Hyperscale White Box, a so-called hyperscale data centre developer, which is using land owned by the family to build much-in-demand data centres. 

Green talk at cocktail parties while sipping sauvignon blanc and humble-bragging about Teslas lacks impact. Merely divesting fossil fuels without investing in cleantech makes the societal ‘SG’ part of ‘ESG’ worse…

Backing the project is the family’s investment group, G&C Holdings, which together with another Thornrock owned business, Kay Thornock & Sons, and Trenton Thornock have so far pumped at least $20 million into the project. 

The family-owned company is building its hyperscale data centre near Aspen Mountain, which is around a three-hour drive east across the border from Utah’s Salt Lake City. The Thornrock siblings say many data centres are build near cities, which they say creates more pollution than if they are built far away from metropolitan areas. 

“Some of the fastest-growing data center clusters in the US are in relatively hot, low latitude, low altitude, high cloud cover locations near large metropolitan areas,” according to Wyoming Hyperscale White Box’s website. 

The company adds: “Green talk at cocktail parties while sipping sauvignon blanc and humble-bragging about Teslas lacks impact. Merely divesting fossil fuels without investing in cleantech makes the societal ‘SG’ part of ‘ESG’ worse, as citizens lose jobs and local government loses funding sources. This is the challenging situation our community finds itself in today.”

The brothers believe data centre project in remote locations like the Aspen Mountain does have a beneficial environmental impact. “(it’s a location) with natural elevation and climate attributes that require less cooling and enables basic atmospheric physics to radiate more of the heat generated by computing operations into space.”

Data centres are one of the fastest-growing parts of the digital economy, but they use a lot of energy. Some have estimated that if the internet was a country it would rank as the 7th biggest polluter. 

So far it would appear very little thought has been given into how to make data centres much more environmentally sustainable. But building them in high altitude and remote areas like Aspen Mountain in Wyoming might offer at least a partial solution. Not only that, remote data centres would offer the local population job opportunities where there are typically few.  

Managing partner of the company Trenton Tornock used half a million dollars of his own money to back the project. Based in Houston, Trenton has been a successful private equity investor for some time, having managed and financially backed a number of energy-related businesses.  

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