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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 e-mail, manage instant messages, store data, and run applications for our computers. Computer technology companies have been building data centers in various locations around the world to help make sure that the information we need is always immediately available.

When companies are planning a new data center, they carefully evaluate several factors, including power availability. A dependable power supply is critical because many individuals and businesses must have continuous access to their email and other electronic information. This means that data centers cannot risk power failures that would disrupt communications 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 systems when electrical power goes out. The Department of Ecology is involved in permitting data center construction in Washington because the backup generators are 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 center expansion and construction in large part because its power supply is a good value and very dependable. According to Grant County Public Utility District, power outages in Quincy are rare, with a 99.99 percent annual average reliability. The average duration 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

In Grant County there is no local air pollution control authority to regulate air pollution, so Ecology has the responsibility to review projects that have air emissions. All new projects must obtain approval from Ecology before construction of a project 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 won't 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

Please click on the links below for the most recent documents related to data center construction in Quincy. We appreciate and welcome public feedback and comment on the data center projects. For more information, please contact Greg Flibbert at gregory.flibbert@ecy.wa.gov.

Microsoft Oxford Data Center New! 2/10/14

On January 27, 2014, the Department of Ecology’s Air Quality Program (Ecology) received a Notice of Construction application (air permit application) from the Microsoft Corporation proposing to construct and operate the Oxford Data Center in Quincy, WA. Microsoft has applied for an air permit because the proposed data center would install 36 2.5-megawatt (MW) emergency back-up diesel engine generators, one 0.75-MW emergency back-up diesel engine generator, and construct 32 cooling towers. The Oxford Data Center would be located approximately ¾ mile west of Microsoft’s existing Columbia Data Center. If you would like to receive email updates about the Oxford project, please contact Beth Mort at (509) 329-3502, to be included on the distribution list.

Vantage Data Center

Sabey Intergate-Quincy Data Center

Dell Data Center

Yahoo! Data Center Expansion

Microsoft data center expansion

Public involvement

For more information, please contact Greg Flibbert

QUICK LINKS


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