Diesel generators powering data centers in Northern Virginia could be harming the environment

The data center controversy is heating up again in Northern Virginia.

At a public hearing Monday at the Department of Environmental Quality’s headquarters, residents expressed concerns that diesel generators being used to power data centers across the commonwealth are adversely impacting the environment and air quality.

That was the topic of public comment Monday morning. The DEQ is proposing a measure to preserve data center reliability and accepting public comments on the proposed variance until March 14.

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There are reportedly nearly 300 data centers in northern Virginia — apparently moving around 70% of the world’s internet traffic —  requiring significant electricity.

The DEQ says areas in Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties may not be able to obtain enough electricity due to transmission problems during the spring and summer months. The diesel generators would apparently provide some relief.

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DEQ says the variant will become effective after the proposal is signed by its director and following a 45-day public comment and hearing period. The proposal allowing diesel generators would expire July 31.