First Advisor

Kelley Barsanti

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering




Data centers -- Environmental aspects, Air -- Pollution -- Mathematical models, Nitrogen dioxide -- Measurement, Particulate matter -- Measurement, Air quality




As our society becomes increasingly dependent on digital communication (e.g., social media and email) and computerized storage (e.g., digitized medical records and government documents), tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Apple are constructing and managing an increasing number of massive Internet data centers. These data centers house a network’s most critical systems and are vital to the continuity of daily operations. Requiring as much electricity as a medium size city, data centers rely on complex auxiliary power systems to prevent disruption to service. These backup systems consist of tens of multi-megawatt diesel-powered generators that release combustion byproducts, including over populated areas, and may lead to violations of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In this study, AERMOD (American Meteorological Society/ Environmental Protection Agency Regulatory Model) was used to model the dispersion of the criteria pollutants nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), from backup generators at the Facebook and Apple data centers in Prineville, Oregon. Two scenarios were considered: 1) routine readiness testing, and 2) a major power outage. Modeled spatial and temporal (seasonal) distribution of the pollutants are discussed, as well as the potential health effects on communities in the proximity of these data centers. Future research will include incorporating health and economic impacts, and consideration of adjusted emissions limits using plant site emission limits (PSEL).



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A research project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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