Susteen opts not to continue with plans for data center in historic Rainbow Dam powerhouse

Susteen Inc. has pulled out of plans for a data center in the historic Rainbow Dam powerhouse.

On April 10, NorthWestern Energy received notice from Susteen, a California company, that it will not lease the powerhouse.

The Electric heard that plans had fallen through and asked NorthWestern for comment regarding the negotiations on March 19 and April 1. The Electric was referred to Susteen, which did not respond to our April 1 request for comment.

County planning board meeting on zone changes related to Rainbow Dam postponed; decision on April 8 commission hearing on zoning regulation changes not yet released

County looks to change zoning at dam facilities; add data center definition

Since those plans for an alternative use for the 1910 powerhouse have fallen through, NorthWestern will begin to demolish the building this fall.

The Cascade County Historical Preservation Advisory Commission had worked for years to find an alternative use for the powerhouse in order to protect it from demolition.

NorthWestern submits data center lease proposal to federal regulators for historic Rainbow Powerhouse

Last summer, NorthWestern submitted a plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission calling for the historic powerhouse at Rainbow Dam to be leased for a blockchain model data center. FERC approved the plan.

But from what The Electric has gathered from several sources, the negotiations fell apart over the cost of renovations and required improvements to the property.

Data center considered as possible reuse for historic Rainbow Powerhouse

“Every possibility to repurpose the facility has been explored,” NorthWestern’s Director of Environmental and Lands Permitting and Compliance Mary Gail Sullivan said in a release. “The challenges, which include safety and security restrictions because of the facility’s remoteness and location on the Missouri River and being onsite with an active hydro operation, limited the type of project that could potentially use the building. Unfortunately, the plan will not move forward.”

Efforts continuing to save Rainbow Powerhouse from demolition

NorthWestern will work with the Cascade County Historical Preservation Old Rainbow Powerhouse Repurposing Committee and others to find ways to use elements of the powerhouse for a historical interpretive display in Cascade County.

Public meeting is Thursday on repurposing the Rainbow Powerhouse

Construction on the 80-foot-wide and 326-foot-long original Rainbow Powerhouse began in 1909 and was completed in 1910, along with the dam and the power line. Electricity was first transmitted to Butte in 1910. A new, more efficient powerhouse was commissioned at Rainbow Dam in 2013.

NorthWestern Energy bought Rainbow hydro facility in 2014 from PPL Montana and committed to continue working with the Cascade County Historical Preservation Old Rainbow Powerhouse Repurposing Committee to look for alternative uses for the original powerhouse.

NorthWestern Energy provided $50,000 for a feasibility study for alternative uses for the original powerhouse.

The county realized during the planning process that properties owned by Northwestern, including the Rainbow powerhouse, were not zoned properly and began looking at rezoning those parcels and adding data center as a use to the zoning regulations. Those changes will likely proceed in the future since.