In January 2023, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a proposed state order that would allow the data center industry to run backup diesel generators for longer and more frequent periods of time from March to July – allowing the industry to circumvent Virginia’s air pollution control laws that limit dangerous pollutants and emissions. The original notice called for comment through March 14, 2023, however, DEQ made adjustments (limiting the order to Loudoun County data centers only) and extended the comment period through April 21, 2023. View the amended notice >>
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DEQ’s proposal would allow diesel generators (permitted for emergency use) to provide power during peak summer energy usage to address projected localized grid instability issues. To be clear, these grid instability issues are a direct result of the rapid growth of data centers in Northern Virginia and their enormous appetite for power.
The commercial generators being used range in size between 600 kW to 3500 kW (much larger than your typical whole-house residential diesel generator which is typically between 10 kW to 26 kW). Diesel is one of the most polluting and harmful forms of energy production, but most data centers have chosen to rely on diesel generators for backup power, instead of more sustainable solutions like on-site solar, battery storage and more energy-efficient operations.