Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

Editor: On July 28, the Loudoun County Planning Commission approved the H&M Property rezoning ZMAP 2019-0017 enabling Amazon to build a 1.75 million-square-foot data center. While the H&M Property location in an industrial area is appropriate, Loudoun should be concerned about the extremely large energy demand and the type of energy used by data centers. In Loudoun, electricity is generated using fossil fuels. In addition, data centers’ bank of diesel back-up generators release so much air pollution that a permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is needed. Northern Virginia is an air quality non-attainment area.

Even though in 2014, Amazon committed to use 100% renewable energy to power it’s cloud, a February2019 Green Peace analysisrevealed that less than 12% of the energy consumed was renewably generated.

In September 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge, setting goals to meet the Paris Climate Agreement 10 years early.Amazon Web Servicespromotes six new solar farms in Virginia and three wind farms as evidence of its commitment to renewable energy.These facilities generate 718 MW of renewable energy.But, as reported in the 2019 Green Peace report, Amazon consumes 1.7 GW (1700 MW) of energy in Virginia.718 MW renewably generated electricity amounts to just 42% of the 1700 MW energy consumed in Virginia.

Amazon has assisted Arlington County’s sustainability goals through partnership inthe Amazon-Arlington solar farm.It will fulfill most of the county’s pledge to rely on renewable energy.

In order for Loudoun to meet new sustainability goals in Loudoun 2019 Chapter 3, Loudoun County needs the same level of commitment from Amazon.Amazon has the resources to meet its own 2014 Renewable Energy commitment and to honor its own 2019 Climate Pledge.In the first quarter of 2020, Amazon Web Servicesreported a record $10 billionin earnings.

Currently in Virginia, data centers’ huge consumption of fossil fuel generated electricity exacerbates the Climate Change crisis. If data centers were powered by renewables, they could be part of the solution.A recent Industry Perspective article discusses this issue,“The Data Center Dilemma: Is Our Data Destroying the Environment?,”The short answer is “Yes.”The author concludes, “The technologies to counter this growing data center dilemma are available and ready to use, and they deliver the double advantage of optimizing performance while also reducing environmental impact. Our data centers don’t have to harm the environment, if we take the proper actions today.”

Amazon must meet its renewable energy commitment in Loudoun County.Amazon has new plans forthree more data centers in Loudoun.

Natalie Pien, Leesburg

2 thoughts on “Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

  • 2020-08-04 at 8:05 am

    The author makes an excellent point. As the citizens of Loudoun County, it is up to us to insist that the new data centers being built are not contributing to environmental destruction and climate change. As customers of Amazon, we can advocate for renewable energy sources for all their new data centers and encourage Amazon to reach its goal of 100% renewable power sooner.

    Although Virginia has managed to mostly eliminate coal based power, natural gas is by far the largest source of electricity in the state. Although CO2 and other pollutant emissions are less than coal, it is by no means a “clean” source. Fracking, methane leaks, PM2.5 air pollution and other environmental hazards still occur.

  • 2020-08-04 at 8:43 am

    Natalie, Great input but I think the term is “whistling in the wind” when we have to resort to writing in the internet things we should expect our BOS to actively be both prioritizing and resolving. Where is their list of priorities and where is the report of progress made against each of those priorities? How is the high speed internet project going while LCPS is forcing parents who don’t even have it to somehow support their children to study from home? Where is the expansion of Route 15 north of Leesburg? Shouldn’t these be higher up on the list than moving a 100 year old statue? What would the power consumption be for that property is there were a few hundred or maybe a few thousand homes there (if the political donation checks were really big)? Sending a message directly to the leaders who are cashing our property tax payments as “earned income” might be more appropriate than trying to do an AOC maneuver to spoil Amazon’s interest in building commercial business in Loudoun. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: