United Kingdom: Incinerator-powered data center proposed for Reading, UK

Feb 24, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

An incinerator-powered data center could be heading to Reading, the UK, it has been announced. J Mould, a local demolition, decontamination, and recycling contracting firm, is proposing this innovative build to the tune of £80 million ($108m). If it goes ahead, the project will be built on a 6.4-hectare site located on the eastern side of the company's waste management facility situated at its Reading Quarry.

The proposed data center, initially proposed back in 2020, would feature three floors spanning 7,532 sqm (81,000 sqft) each and include rooftop solar panels. Meanwhile, the incinerator would reportedly burn up to 150,000 tonnes of waste per year, producing 8MW of heat, and 11MW of electrical output, which would be used by the data center and also provide energy to the national grid.

The proposal, however, is not without opposition and Reading Borough Council has been criticized for not flat out rejecting the proposal, one woman as reported by the Reading Chronicle, said that the incinerator poses a threat to the environment and that the emissions from these incinerators are "harmful for health, and cause cancers and asthma." 

Further to this, she labeled incinerators as a "white elephant," explaining: She explained: "People build these incinerators because they are on 'the second level' of the waste hierarchy – they're seen as not being as bad as landfill. But in the next 25-30 years, there will not be enough 'feed stock' to generate energy. As a nation, we're trying to transition into a circular economy of recycling. There's not enough rubbish now and in the future to keep these incinerators viable – there wouldn't be enough rubbish to burn." She outlined that they are not financially viable and that there isn't the input to keep it going.

Responding to this opposition, Reading Borough Council has reportedly reviewed the proposal and decided not to reject the proposal on behalf of Reading. According to the council, an assessment on how the project would affect air quality was conducted: "The assessment uses appropriate standards and guidance and found that the impact of pollutants released from the proposed development would be insignificant at all residential receptors in Reading." Adding: "It is wholly for West Berkshire District Council to consider and assess the application in full against its adopted local plan policies and national guidance."

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