Data Centers use large amounts of (often farm) land to house row after row of computer servers, servers that must be cooled by large amounts of circulated water. What we think of when we save something "to the cloud" is in fact a very large low slung building with the power needs of a large city. The increase in power needs has Virginia contemplating a large grid update that Maryland rate payers will need to chip in for, to the tune of $500 Million.
But what about when the power goes out?
For all the cutting edge technology of data centers, the back up power source of choice has been diesel generators - enough to keep that city-sized power need met. The company Aligned looking to construct data centers in Frederick County had to withdraw their plans when their application to the Public Service Commission for 160 3-megawatt diesel generators required to run continuously in the event of a power outage was denied.
Governor Moore was frustrated by this. From Maryland Matters, "The PSC decision drew a rebuke from Moore after Aligned Data pulled out of the development — even though Moore has appointed three of the five commissioners. And the company in a recent statement warned that the PSC vote “sent a negative — and perhaps fatal — signal to the hoped-for data center industry in Maryland.”
Moore's resulting legislation on this topic, HB 579/ SB474: Critical Infrastructure Streamlining Act seeks to remove the PSCs oversight on backup power generators for data centers.
From the opposition letter:
"We are concerned by the bill’s sweeping exemptions. As written, all backup diesel generators, of any size, in any quantity, anywhere in Maryland would be exempt from the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) process. The technical expertise and judicial role of the Public Service Commission would have no influence in these potentially massive generator projects."
"We also worry about the precedent that could be set by exempting from the CPCN process
power plant-sized complexes of diesel generators without opportunity for substantive public involvement. This is a significant concern, as for example, just at the Quantum Loophole site in Adamstown, over 1000 generators are expected to provide a total of 2.4 gigawatts of energy. That is enough energy to power 600,000 new homes, roughly two times the number of housing units in Baltimore."
- Project # diesel generators in next 10 years
- Prepare an environmental analysis.
- Identify the timeline for the availability of greener alternatives.
- Make recommendations for overall clean energy goals.
- Make recommendations for permitting, oversight, and public communications.
- Ascertain energy availability and risk of blackouts.
In addition, MCA supports SB0861-Public Utilities - High-Energy-Use Facilities - Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions put forth by Senator Lewis Young and Senator Watson. The bill would require facilities that have high energy use - notably data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations to move toward 100% reduction in emissions by 2040 (5 years after Governor Moore has pledged the state will be using 100% clean energy) with milestone targets between now and then, with compliance monitored by the Public Service Commission. This provision aligns the staggering energy use of data centers with the critical emissions reduction goals of the state and will push innovation.
Baltimore Sun: Maryland Governor's bill on data centers raises environmental concerns
Frederick News Post: Moore 'disappointed' in PSC's Aligned decision, will work with legislature on data center needs
Multiple Data Centers Proposed at Dickerson Power Plant - Concerns and Recommendations
As Use of A.I. Soars, So Does the Energy and Water It Requires