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Passamaquoddys in Maine Plan Hydrogen-Powered Data Center

The Passamaquoddy Tribe is seeking to leverage its broadband capacity to create a data center. The hydrogen-powered server would provide data storage for businesses and individuals. (CommScope, Flickr/Creative Commons, no changes made, https://tinyurl.com/yb66ukk4)

The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township is situated along Maine’s Internet superhighway known as the Three Ring Binder project. Named for the three rings of fiber that circle across much of Maine, the 1,100-mile fiber-optic network provides high-speed Internet access to some of the most rural areas of the state.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe is seeking to leverage that broadband capacity through a data center. The remote server would provide data storage for businesses and individuals. The tribe told Mainebiz.com it would market to corporations such as Microsoft, Google and Apple.

“There’s a big demand for data centers,” Darrin Coffin, Passamaquoddy tribe finance director, told Mainebiz. “There’s healthy margins to be made and it will be healthy for Washington County.”

On December 19, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded $100,000 to the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township to fund a study for a potential hydrogen-powered data center on the Passamaquoddy reservation. 

Sen. King’s office connected the tribe with Joi Scientific Inc., a hydrogen energy company based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Data centers have high energy intake, which causes them to have a high carbon footprint,” Coffin told Mainebiz. “With Joi Scientific as our partner, we’ll use hydrogen-based technology to power the data center.”

Hydrogen is the universe’s most abundant element, and it’s widely considered the world’s cleanest source of energy. But its use has been restricted by challenges to harvest it safely, store it, transport it and release that energy. Joi developed Hydrogen 2.0 based on a very efficient extraction technology enabling the localized production of hydrogen gas from water—safely, affordably and without carbon emissions. In September 2018, Joi Scientific signed the first-ever license agreement for its Hydrogen 2.0 production technology with MarineMax, the world’s largest boat and yacht retailer. (joiscientific.com)

Results of the EDA study will identify the resources necessary for sustainable operations—including workforce development, capital, business management, legal services, and administrative support.

“This important funding from the EDA will assist the Passamaquoddy Tribe in assessing the feasibility of constructing a cutting-edge data center powered by clean energy,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “We welcome the EDA’s continued investment in Maine’s tribal communities, which supports economic development and job creation.”

The data center would offer well-paying jobs, employing 20 to 25 people to start, and help to diversify the regional economy.

The tribe is waiting to hear from the U.S. Department of Treasury about its application to qualify for the New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) program, Mainebiz reported. The program “incentivizes community development and economic growth through the use of tax credits that attract private investment to distressed communities,” the NMTC site notes. The Treasury will announce the next round of NMTC participants in winter 2019.

Inclusion in the NMTC program would help the tribe break ground on the data center in May and have the center up and running a year to 14 months later.

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