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