Residents skeptical about noise declines at data center - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Residents skeptical about noise declines at data center

November 6th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Residents skeptical about noise declines at data center

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Chandler Planning Administrator Kevin Mayo says the number of complaints about the noise coming from data centers has dropped in recent months. He said he hopes some of that is because of steps taken by owners to mitigate noise levels.

“We have been working closely with the primary data center that is just west of Dobson Road, and they’ve done a lot of things,” Mayo told the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission, saying the center has wrapped the chillers “in these acoustic blankets. They’ve added these sound attenuation panels, they’re screen walls, they’re actually sound absorbing panels. So they’ve done a lot of that I’m not aware of any current noise concerns.”

Residents in the Clemente Ranch subdivision east of the CyrusOne data center on Dobson aren’t convinced. They say complaints will likely start up again as the weather cools.

“Well considering it has been summer and everyone’s homes are completely buttoned up,” Jennifer Goehring wrote to a question on the Dobson Noise Community Facebook page. “When walking out to my car I hear it just as much if not more than normal.”

She was not the only one to say the summer heat account for the drop in noise complaints to the city.

“With windows closed and [air conditioners] always on I’m sure it drowns out some noise,” Jenny Lowry wrote. “Now that it’s cooling down and windows are going to be open I’m sure the complaints will pick up.”

“It is better than four years ago, but it’s still an obvious presence in the area,” Katherine Saba wrote.

Mayo was before the Planning & Zoning Commission to ask for changes that might prevent other residents living near a data center from complaining about noise levels.

It would also give any business seeking to build a data center in Chandler some clarity about the steps they need to take.

Here’s some of what the proposed changes would do:

• All future data centers would be designated primary use. That would require them to go through the planned area development process.

• Would require all developers to hire a sound engineer and conduct tests to establish a baseline for noise levels before any construction starts. Then they could mandate the data center not increase levels above that baseline.

• Would mandate annual noise level tests during peak operations for the first five years after the data center opens.

Data centers prefer a place like Arizona because it’s a safe area (i.e., no hurricanes, no earthquakes, no tornadoes, etc.) Cities have been a little more hesitant to build data centers. They bring in few jobs, take up a lot of space, water, electricity and usually generate noise complaints.

Mayo said data centers prefer to use water cooling, which is quieter and cheaper. However, during a drought they have been switching to electric coolers to save water. The coolers are not the only noise maker, Mayo said.

Because a data center needs to be reliable, even during a power outage, they have to have a large number of generators so they can keep servers running if the power is out for an extended period.

“Kind of like your car, you don’t leave the car in the garage for four years and then go turn it on,” Mayo said. “Backup generators are cycled monthly, and then they run in full bore about every 90 days to ensure that they’re ready when that half a second trigger is turned on.”

Mayo said his department would try to steer any future data centers to industrial areas that are not near residential neighborhoods.

The proposed changes will now go to City Council for consideration.