10 reasons why data center should change water cooling pipe location

Open Letter to Mr. James Connaughton
Chief Executive Officer
Nautilus Data Technologies

Dear  Mr. Connaughton,

The Alameda City Council has granted you approval of moving forward with your data storage facility at Alameda Point.  Please reconsider the route for discharging warm water from the cooling system.  Instead of heading south under the Bay Trail and through the harbor near the ferry maintenance facility, send the water discharge pipe north to the Oakland Estuary.

As someone who was instrumental in protecting large tracts of the Pacific Ocean during your tenure as environmental advisor to President George W. Bush, I believe the alternative route will appeal to your marine conservation values. Continue reading “10 reasons why data center should change water cooling pipe location”

Water-cooled data center proposal . . . not so cool

Nautilus Data Technologies is proposing to convert Building 530, located at 120 West Oriskany Avenue at Alameda Point, into a data storage facility.  The facility would draw 10,000 gallons of water a minute from underneath Pier 2 in order to cool the racks of computer servers.  The warmer water, about 4 degrees warmer, would be discharged into San Francisco Bay.  Water cooling is a cheaper alternative than traditional air conditioning.

The proposal will be voted on at the May 7 city council meeting.

Here are some points made in the city staff report in support of the proposal, followed by reasons why this proposal does not deserve support.

PointThe city staff report claims that the facility will be environmentally friendly because water cooling will use less electricity for cooling than traditional air conditioning.

CounterpointStarting in 2020, all of Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) electricity will be carbon free, producing zero greenhouse gas.  Reducing electrical usage in Alameda is not an environmental benefit, only a cost-saving benefit to the business. Continue reading “Water-cooled data center proposal . . . not so cool”

Rocket manufacturing coming to Alameda Point

Alameda Point has specialty craft breweries and distilleries.   Coming soon – craft rockets.  Startup company Astra Space hopes to sell its economy-sized rockets to any entity wanting to launch its own small satellite into low earth orbit.

On April 22, the city council and members of the public got a tour of its nearly completed production facility prior to a special meeting of the council.  The meeting was billed as a recommendation to authorize the city’s commercial real estate broker Cushman and Wakefield to market a 24-acre industrial area in the commercial Enterprise District to businesses and developers.  But because Cushman and Wakefield had already been authorized to market the area at least twice since 2015, the real reason for the tour and meeting was to showcase a shifting strategy for the district that will now include adaptively reusing some existing buildings, rather than tearing everything down as previously envisioned. Continue reading “Rocket manufacturing coming to Alameda Point”

Unexpected Environmental Review of VA Project

The City of Alameda announced on February 22 that it will be preparing an environmental impact report (EIR) on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) project for a health clinic and columbarium cemetery at Alameda Point. The VA completed its environmental review for the project in 2013. The deadline for commenting on what the city should evaluate is March 22.

The belated environmental review was triggered by California regulations requiring a state EIR in order for the Regional Water Quality Control Board to approve the VA’s wetland mitigation plan.

An EIR is also required for City of Alameda approvals. “Although construction of federal facilities by federal agencies is typically exempt from local land use regulations and review,” said city planner Andrew Thomas, “in this case, the VA plans to construct an access utility/road on approximately 6-acres of city land to the east of the VA Transfer Parcel and two new storm drains across city-owned land to the north of the VA property, which will require approval of easements from the city, which are discretionary actions subject to CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act].”

Revisiting the project’s environmental impacts six years after the VA completed its review presents an opportunity to evaluate the potential environmental benefits of locating the medical clinic and benefits offices in the business “Enterprise District” rather than in the open space on the former airfield. Continue reading “Unexpected Environmental Review of VA Project”

Views of wetland cleanup area to be dug up, upgraded in 2019

The Navy will implement the environmental remediation plan for Site 32 on the western end of the former airfield.  The plan calls for covering the entire 60-acre site with three free of clean soil without raising the elevation of the existing wetlands.  Thus, the existing wetlands will be excavated to a depth of three feet, and then three feet of replacement clean soil will be brought in to re-contour the wetlands.

Most of the water in the accompanying photos, taken in March 2019, is from rainwater.  However, this wetland is also low enough in elevation that it receives water via tidal pressure from the Bay. Continue reading “Views of wetland cleanup area to be dug up, upgraded in 2019”

Great Egret stalks a lizard

Great Egrets are commonly seen wading along a shoreline, in marshes and wetlands waiting for fish to come near before catching them with a quick thrust of its bill.

Great Egrets primarily eat small fish.  However, their diet can also include reptiles such as lizards, amphibians, birds, small mammals, shrimp, worms, dragonflies, beetles, water bugs, and grasshoppers.

This particular Great Egret decided to stroll into the old campground at Alameda Point in search of food.  It walked slowly up to a Rosemary bush and stood there for about five minutes, occasionally making slight head movements, before plunging its head into the bush to catch a lizard.

After holding the lizard in its bill for a few minutes, it gulped down the lizard and proceeded very slowly to another bush.

Continue reading “Great Egret stalks a lizard”

City misses chance to embrace wetlands at Alameda Point

The city and its consultant recently released a report outlining what will be included in the new climate action plan for Alameda.  What it reveals, unfortunately, is their resistance to thinking big.

The process for updating Alameda’s climate action plan began as a promising effort for a comprehensive look at what it means to adapt our entire environment to climate change.  It is winding up with a narrow focus on protecting local real estate, which they refer to as “vulnerable assets.”

The city has rejected a broader scope of action that would include “opportunity assets,” as in opportunities to improve the natural environment, not just the built environment.  Areas at Alameda Point not slated for development must be viewed as an opportunity asset that can be re-purposed for the good of the environment. Continue reading “City misses chance to embrace wetlands at Alameda Point”