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Air Quality Program

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

Public Comment Period June 19, 2014 - July 29, 2014 New! 2/10/14

Microsoft proposes to change the water source that serves the existing cooling towers and to change how the cooling towers are operated for the Microsoft Columbia Data Center (501 Port Industrial Parkway in Quincy). Instead of using water for the cooling towers from water supply wells, Microsoft proposes to use pre-treated wastewater from the City’s industrial wastewater treatment plant. The proposed changes will:

  • decrease the amount of water discharged to the City of Quincy industrial sewer system, and
  • increase the amount of small particles carried out of the cooling tower as “drift” droplets. Emissions of the small-sized droplets (PM10) will increase 9.45 tons per year. Emissions of the very small-sized droplets (PM2.5) will increase by 2.45 tons per year.

Documents associated with this project are available below as well as at Quincy City Hall and the Quincy Library. Submit your comments by email to beth.mort@ecy.wa.gov or by mail to Beth Mort, Department of Ecology, 4601 North Monroe Street, Spokane, WA 99205. Sign up for email updates about the Quincy data centers. Para asistencia en espanol: Gregory Bohn (509) 454-4174 o Richelle Perez (360) 407-6084.

Microsoft Oxford Data Center

Public Comment Period June 19, 2014 - July 29, 2014
Public Hearing July 24, 2014 at Quincy Community Center
New! 2/10/14

Microsoft proposes to construct and operate the Microsoft Oxford Data Center (about ¾ miles west of the existing Microsoft Columbia Data Center in Quincy). The application for the proposed data center includes work to:

  • install emergency backup diesel engine generators:
    • 32 2.5-megawatt (MW),
    • 4 2-MW,
    • 1 0.75-MW, and
  • construct 32 cooling towers.

Documents associated with this project are available below as well as at Quincy City Hall and the Quincy Library. Submit your comments by email to beth.mort@ecy.wa.gov or by mail to Beth Mort, Department of Ecology, 4601 North Monroe Street, Spokane, WA 99205. Sign up for email updates about the Quincy data centers. Para asistencia en español: Gregory Bohn (509) 454-4174 o Richelle Perez (360) 407-6084.

Sabey Intergate-Quincy Data Center

Vantage Data Center

Yahoo! Data Center

For more information, contact Greg Flibbert.

QUICK LINKS


To find out about data centers in other areas of Washington, click on the links below.