Topics in this article
As a new member of Oregon's business community, we're proud to announce that our new data center in Hillsboro, Oregon, has completed its evaluation by the Cleaner Air Oregon program and has been pronounced fit to proceed with construction.
Oregon began a new era in 2018 by creating the Cleaner Air Oregon program, which makes sure that all new and existing commercial and industrial facilities cannot emit toxic air contaminants at a level that could potentially harm people. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sees this new program as helping to ensure that industrial progress will not cause a regression in health.
‘DEQ is excited to see Cleaner Air Oregon meet the ongoing challenge of maintaining clean and healthy air in Oregon communities,’ said Lauren Wirtis, Public Affairs Specialist for the Oregon DEQ.
The requirements of the Cleaner Air Oregon program apply to paper mills, steel rolling mills, oil refining companies, microchip manufacturers, lumber companies, glass manufacturers – the list goes on and on – and includes data centers.
While smaller data centers have also gained permits from the Cleaner Air Oregon program, our Hillsboro data center is the only data center to have completed a Level 3 risk assessment. Level 3 is nearly the most rigorous on a scale that goes from Level 1 to Level 4, with Level 4 being the most complex.
To illustrate the level of examination that takes place during a Level 3 risk assessment, and why it can take up to a year to complete, take a look at the efforts needed to gain the Cleaner Air Oregon certification:
To complete a Level 2 or 3 Risk Assessment, facilities need to develop a detailed list of model inputs, including site-specific stack characteristics, building information (to account for building downwash), terrain data, specific exposure locations, and site-specific land use parameters. The quantity and complexity of parameters add up quickly and can easily become overwhelming.
What also gets complicated fast is the amount of data that needs to be managed. On average, facilities could be reporting anywhere from 10-50 toxic air contaminants per emissions source. Multiply that by the number of emissions sources, the number of exposure locations, and 43,824 hours (the number of hours in the required 5-year meteorological dataset), and very quickly your Cleaner Air Oregon Risk Assessment includes over a million data points.
Therefore, it's not only necessary to have a trained air quality modeler involved, but you also need to be able to manage a large amount of data. This becomes increasingly important when you need to start analyzing the modeling results to determine which sources and which toxic air contaminants may be driving risks and therefore require refinement.
Why is this level of scrutiny needed? Before the Cleaner Air Oregon rules were adopted, Oregon based the existing rules on federal law. Those rules allowed industrial facilities to release potentially harmful amounts of air toxics, but still operate within legal requirements. The Cleaner Air Oregon rules closed the regulatory gaps left after the implementation of federal air toxics regulations.
Change is hardly ever easy, particularly when it involves new processes and invariably new costs. But this kind of change is well worth it. We applaud the state of Oregon for doing not what is easy, but what is right. And that's why we're proud to help keep Oregon's air clean and healthy for generations to come.