At the GSMI Green Data Center conference in San Diego yesterday, Jason Shepard, a Senior VP at CB Richard Ellis gave a great presentation on determining optimum sites for data centers. He specializes in the Southern California region, but is part of a broader Technology Practice Group at CBRE.
Jason covered a lot of ground: industry trends (including the rise of collocation), the site selection process (avoiding natural hazard risk, communication service availability), and the evaluation of power reliability, availability, and costs.
He also put the power question in the context of "green considerations", raising all of the right questions about the power generation portfolio of a given utility. Married to water availability and the applicability of free cooling in a given climate zone, he made a compelling case for a careful evaluation of power based not only on costs today, but what it might look like in a carbon-regulated environment in the future.
One of his slides compared the power generation portfolios of five states, noting the relevant preponderance of fossil fuel-fired plants and the differing amounts of renewable and non-carbon sources. I was very pleased to hear him note that even within states there can be quite a difference in the generation portfolios of utilities.
In my white paper on the Carbon Content of Utility Power (available to consulting clients), I noted the wide disparity in power generation portfolios for utilities in California, with some having no coal-fired generation (the three big investor-owned utilities), and one getting almost half of its power from imports from coal plants (a municipal utility in Southern California).
If you believe that carbon regulations will raise prices in some fashion (and they will in my estimation, it's really just a matter of how much and how soon), then sourcing your power from a utility with a high-carbon power generation portfolio represents a cost risk.