Economic development officials love clusters of huge Internet data centers. But environmental officials are less enthused about large clusters of diesel generators. The town of Quincy, Washington has both, serving as home to major data centers for Microsoft, Yahoo and Intuit (with another project from Sabey Corp. on the way). Each of the data centers in Quincy uses banks of generators to provide backup power in the event of a utility outage. Diesel engine exhaust is a regulated pollutant, and can be toxic in high concentrations, so state regulators routinely review permits for generators.
An aerial view of the Microsoft data center in Quincy, Washington
"Under most conditions, data center air emissions are minimal," the report notes, but adds that a "system-wide power failure could result in the simultaneous operation of dozens of large diesel engines."
While the impact of generators has been minimal thus far, the economic impact of the Microsoft, Yahoo and Intuit projects has been considerable.