Editor's Note: Robert E. McFarlane is a principal at Shen Milsom & Wilke, an international firm that provides consulting and technology design on large and small projects, including information technology data center planning. McFarlane’s expertise is in the design of data center infrastructure. ENR approached McFarlane with a series of questions about the reports of electrical problems at the National Security Administration’s data center in Utah, seeking to better understand the kinds of issues that may be involved. Several other experts ENR approached were eager to respond as well, but prevented from doing so by non-disclosure agreements they had signed with the NSA.
All we seem to know about the new NSA data center in Utah is that it is supposedly 100,000 sq ft of raised floor space in a million sq ft complex, that it is a 65 MW facility, and that for about fourteen months something has been going drastically wrong with the power system. Big firms were contracted to design and build it—firms said to have a lot of experience with complex, high-tech government projects. So what has gone wrong?