Tech firm Susteen has scrapped its plan to use Rainbow Dam's original powerhouse as a data center, according to NorthWestern Energy, which owns the hydro facility.

The utility notified FERC April 13 that Susteen had decided against leasing the 1910 powerhouse, and that the building will be demolished [P-2188].

NorthWestern Energy acquired the dam, located on the Missouri River near Great Falls, from PPL Montana in 2014, after a new 60 MW powerhouse became operational in 2013, replacing the original 36 MW capacity. The two companies worked for nearly a decade with historic preservationists to find a new use for the building.

In July 2019, NWE submitted a plan to FERC to lease the original building to Susteen. The Irvine, Calif.-based company wanted to use it for a blockchain data center. Susteen makes digital forensics hardware and software for law enforcement.

Finding a second life for the building faced myriad challenges, including safety and security restrictions given its remoteness and being onsite of a federally licensed hydroelectric facility, Mary Gail Sullivan, who oversees NWE's environmental compliance, said in a press release.

NWE notified FERC it is reviewing contractor bids to raze the building. The company's press release said demolition is expected to happen this fall

Contributing Editor

Dan has covered stories from Seattle to Tbilisi; spent time with the AP, Everett Daily Herald and Christian Science Monitor; and was twice a member of a team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He and his wife have three young children and live in Seattle.