Data centers and air quality
In the past 10 years, the importance of computer technology in our lives has grown quickly. We create mountains of data every day and the systems for managing that data are critically important to our society. Data centers, or server farms, house the servers that provide email, manage instant messages, store data, and run computer applications. Computer technology companies have been building data centers in various locations around the world to make sure that the information we need is immediately available.
When companies are planning a new data center, they evaluate several factors, including power availability. A dependable power supply is critical because many individuals and businesses need to have continuous access to their email and other electronic information. This means that data centers cannot risk power failures that would disrupt communication and cause data to be lost.
To guard against an electrical power outage, each data center is built with enough backup generators to operate their servers even if electrical power goes out. Ecology is involved in permitting data center construction because the backup generators usually run on diesel fuel. Diesel engine exhaust carries toxic air pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, organic compounds, and small particles.
Data centers find Grant County a good place to build
Quincy has become a favored place for data centers because its power supply is a good value and dependable. According to Grant County Public Utility District, power outages in Quincy are rare, with a 99.99 percent annual average reliability. The average time of power failure is less than 3 hours (143 minutes) per year.
A temporary sales tax exemption approved by the Washington State Legislature in 2010 provided further incentive for data centers to locate in Quincy. To qualify for the tax exemption, the data center must have at least 20,000 square feet dedicated to servers and start construction before July 1, 2011.
Ecology regulates air quality in Grant County
Since Grant County does not have a local air agency to regulate air pollution, Ecology is responsible to review projects that have air emissions. All new projects must get approval from Ecology before construction begins.
The air quality permit required for data center construction is called a "Notice of Construction Approval Order." The application for the Notice of Construction requires that the data center company describe all air contaminant emissions from the project, identify the federal air regulations that apply, describe the project's emission control technology, and prove that air quality standards will not be violated. If emissions of toxic air pollutants exceed levels set in state regulations, a health impact assessment must also be conducted to prove that there is minimal health risk to the community.
General information about air quality and data centers
Data center sites in Quincy
The most recent documents about data center projects in Quincy are provided below.
Dell Data Center
Microsoft Columbia Data Center
Microsoft Oxford Data Center
>Update: On 8/15/14, Ecology issued an air permit to Microsoft for the Oxford Data Center. On 9/11/2014, Microsoft appealed this permit to the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB). The appeal was put on hold, allowing Microsoft to apply for a permit revision and Ecology to review the request. On 12/11/14, Ecology received Microsoft's application to revise the Oxford Data Center permit. Comment period open May 28 – July 13, 2015.
Original Oxford Data Permit Documents:
Sabey Intergate-Quincy Data Center
Vantage Data Center
Yahoo! Data Center
For more information, contact Jolaine Johnson.
To find out about data centers in other areas of Washington, click on the links below.
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