There was one more aspect to the power scheme of eBay's new data center in Utah that intrigued me: an agreement to buy power from an independent producer "over the fence" rather than through a utility wheeling agreement.
There is evidently a gas pipeline compressor station proximate to the data center, and a recovered-energy generation plant will be built there in the next eighteen months by Ormat Technologies. The plant will have a projected output of 5 MW, or a little more than a quarter of the eventual projected load of the data center.
I initially thought the arrangement strange: why wouldn't the power simply be used at the compressor station? It turns out that most compressor stations are driven by gas turbines, which put out high grade exhaust heat which is perfect for recapture, but the compressor station electric load is minimal. Usually the power generated would be sold back to the utility, though that entails building connection facilities which may be expensive depending on the plant location.
eBay has entered into a 20-year power purchase deal with Ormat, and is avoiding the grid connection only because Utah regulators allowed it.
Now I know to the outside world these "over the fence" arrangements should be allowable, as should a wide-open power purchase market, with utilities responsible only for building, operating, and maintaining the grid. But I've pointed out before that deregulation has risks, and those have to be prudently considered by regulators and advocates.
My takeaway for utility-scale data center operators is: don't expect to collocate your facilities with power plants to avoid the costs of being connected to the grid without a regulatory battle, and indeed consider the benefits of grid connection before seeking that pathway. The industry has every right to pursue regulatory changes to meet its needs, but careful consideration is in order.