Missouri: Under the microscope: Ameren's new data center

Oct 26, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Ameren's new data center, fuelled by one of its coal-fired power plants in Missouri, has come under the microscope, garnering concerns from those in the local community and beyond.

While the company says that the $1 million facility will help to stabilize demand for electricity, critics aren't so sure. They have warned that the facility, launched in April but not publicly announced, will "artificially heighten" demand for energy. Further to this, opponents of the facility argue that resources could be better deployed for battery storage, amongst other things. 

According to Andy Knott, interim central region director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, the data center is "essentially a way to prop up coal use." Further to this, he stated:
"This really increases demand on the system, and therefore, demand for coal energy. I think what they're trying to do is avoid having to ramp down their generators."

Reports outline that so far, the facility, which utilizes power from the local power plant has mined around 20 coins, valued at $60,000 each.

Of course, the argument that the facility is propping up coal use is concerning. The world is currently in crisis regarding climate change and on the verge of ecological disaster. Coal is an incredibly harmful way to generate energy, and presently the burning of coal accounts for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. This reality sits alongside the fact that in 2019, the Environmental Integrity Project reported that the Sioux Energy Center significantly exceeded 'safe' pollutant levels, with Molybdenum emissions 181 times over what is considered a 'safe' level.

These emissions are occurring while the power plant is used intermittently; for example, the plant ran only 17% of the time back in April, but there are concerns that the data center would increase its operations.

That's not all, either. The plant has also been found to be a pollutant locally, and water protection groups attempted to sue Ameren in February for alleged continual violations of the federal Clean Water Act.