"Grant County, where Quincy is, has among the lowest electrical rates in the country. That's why people are so interested in it," Dines said. "On the other hand, Prineville doesn't have sales tax, and they have a pretty significant property tax abatement."
Prineville's data center boom is just beginning. Facebook is nearing completion of its second large data-center hall alongside its first facility and Apple, following in Facebook's steps, is building a data center in town too.
In Quincy, Martin has helped bring environmental complaints about data centers to the state environmental board. A hearing about a complaint against Yahoo is scheduled for Nov. 19, while hearings about the complaints against Sabey and Dell are scheduled for next year. But Microsoft was the victor in a recent decision investigating complaints about pollutants from its backup diesel generators. The Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board ruled that there are no health threats to residents of Quincy by generators.
However, Martin is undeterred and praises a technology company that recently built a data center in Quincy and voluntarily made changes to its back-up generators that were not required by law. "Vantage put diesel particulate scrubbers on its generators," Martin said. "They said it's the right thing to do."
Microsoft was contacted for this story and provided a link to a year-old blog post detailing a plan for Microsoft's Quincy data center to transfer its water treatment plant to the municipality of Quincy, as a gift.
Asked for comment, Dell said in a statement that its data center is cooled using "heat-wheel technology," which maximizes use of outside air and reduces the facility's overall energy and water demands. Dell declined to comment specifically about the data center's generators.
Washington environmental authorities have taken air quality measurements in Quincy and said while pollutant levels have gone up since the data centers were built, pollution levels are still much lower than would be found in nearby cities. The Department of Ecology has taken measurements for several years in Quincy and recently found that Intuit's generators gave off the most exhaust.
Intuit and Sabey didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Patchett said Facebook's Prineville facility has six generators in its first building, but adds that the building was designed to rarely use them.
Facebook is continuing to build data centers around the world and expects its data center in Sweden to come online next year. It worked with the local Swedish power company to redesign access to the utility grid, which allowed Facebook to go without backup generators completely.
"One thing we're really proud of is being able to get rid of generators there, because of the upstream design," said Jay Parikh, vice president of Facebook's infrastructure engineering.
"I hate to sound cynical but the motivation for environmental design is usually not just about being a good corporate citizen ... it tends to be less being green for the environment and more being green like money," Forrester's Dines said.