Northern Virginia: The Northern Virginia data center boom: Reactions from the local community are mixed

Oct 12, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Northern Virginia is in the midst of a data center boom. This has partly developed due to a demand for new data centers resulting from the pandemic, which means that it currently has the highest density of data centers in the world. Loudoun County alone has over 100 data centers, with more than 10 million sqft of space taken up by facilities. Digital Realty, AWS, Google and Microsoft all have facilities in the area. That said, this boom is apparently taking a toll on the rural community.

A report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation reveals that one particular data center campus has split the local community. There is a proposal for a large data center campus in Prince William County. The issue is that some of the land is a protected rural area and, essentially, a no-go for construction. According to the report, landowners want local authorities to “roll back” these protections, a request which has support from the county’s chamber of commerce.

Currently, the facilities in the area of Prince William County contribute $64 million per year in tax revenue, and proponents argue that further financial gain is to be had with this new project. They claim that the project would bring an additional $500 million a year if given the go-ahead.

Environmentalists argue that this is just another example of profit taking precedence over the local environment, and in reality, will likely only benefit a select few.

There will likely be further controversy and disagreement as more and more data center companies target the region. Financial incentives may seem attractive now, but as Pete Candland, who is on the board of supervisors overseeing policy-making, has said: “Once you develop these rural areas, they’re gone.”

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