For a confidential social media firm in the USA, Ramboll provided site selection, development and permitting support for a planned hyperscale data centre. Ramboll was awarded the project based on previous success for the client on a smaller task.
The project team completed Phase I activities to assist in selection of a final location, Phase II activities to support regulatory requirements and worker safety, and permitting activities for air, noise and water management.
Phases I and II due diligence
We conducted Phase I environmental due diligence evaluations for multiple sites to aid the client in making a final decision on where to locate this large-scale data centre. The work was conducted in accordance with the current ASTM standard guide on pre-acquisition environmental due diligence. We then performed a Phase II site assessment for the selected site. This involved collecting soil and groundwater samples for analysis, as a specific set of chemicals could have been released during historical site operations. The data from this assessment was used to determine if contamination was present at concentrations that could impact site development or workers, as well as to develop a site safety and management.
Air permitting was necessary due to the use of multiple diesel generators for backup power in case if a power outage, as well as particulate emissions from cooling structures. These activities included agency meetings and negotiations regarding allowable emissions during standard operation, maintenance activities and emergency situations. Our efforts also included air dispersion modelling and development and submittal of the air permit application. By working closely with the client, we were to avoid needing a Title V air permit.
A noise evaluation was conducted to assess whether noise emanating from the data centre from cooling operations and generator use would be a nuisance to nearby businesses or residents. This was accomplished by collecting pre-development noise measurements outside the site boundaries, and then using that information along with the site design, equipment-specific sound information and location-specific topographic/terrain data to model the sound levels at potential nearby receptors. The results of the model were compared to local guidelines and regulations regarding sound, as well as to industry-accepted nuisance standards.
Follow-on projects are expected from this project, and include management tools for tracking of regulatory compliance and best management practices, training of personnel and contractors and continuous improvement.