Microsoft and Google have both filed paperwork to expand existing data center campuses.
Microsoft filed permits to add 72 Diesel generators at its Quincy, Washington campus, while Google filed paperwork under its Maguro entity to expand a Charleston, South Carolina data center to the tune of $600 million.
Both companies have faced a bit of controversy and push-back from regulators and environmentalists. Washington state ecology regulators have called a public hearing over the generators, while environmental groups were upset with Google over it seeking permission to draw 1.5 million gallons of water a day from beneath Berkeley County.
Data Center Knowledge’s Christine Hall notes the application shows Microsoft hasn’t made enough progress in its search for a more environmentally-friendly backup power alternative to generators; a search first announced six years ago. An article from Post and Courier first reported Google’s paperwork had been filed, but the company remains quiet while it waits for approval by Berkeley County officials. Google generally remains quiet until projects are completed. Berkeley will consider a tax break for the expansion.
Google’s expansion project was previously discussed under the code name “Project Linden”. Google has spent $1.8 billion to date on the site, which hosts services like Gmail and Google Drive. Google has 3 data centers in the Carolinas.
Microsoft’s Quincy data center campus is its flagship, consisting of 270 acres and supporting hundreds of megawatts of data center capacity. The additional generators put Microsoft’s campus into a new air permit category, prompting a public hearing on August 27.
It’s important to note these generators usually sit idle for the majority of their lifespans. Ideally, they’re only fired up for maintenance purposes – to make sure they don’t drop the ball in the event they’re needed.
It’s important to note these projects are reaching a scale where exploring alternatives to generators makes more than just environmental sense; it makes economic sense. I’d argue the aesthetic sense alone is reason enough – those generators take up a ton of space. One or two look impressive; 70+ look scary.
The scale of these projects mean data center water usage in general is currently under the microscope. Using gray water (reclaimed water) makes requirements more palatable. But as these facilities reach unprecedented scale and achieve higher densities, water usage becomes a focal point of public concern.
Both Google and Microsoft should be commended for their work towards using and moving towards renewable, clean and sustainable methods. Historically, they’ve used their influence and capital to promote and kick start renewable energy projects across the country. Now more than ever, it’s important to continue leading the charge, despite the threat of a coal-powered Space Force looming. I’m kidding. I hope.