The following text was sent out via email on July 6, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →
Thank you to everyone who responded to our June 23 email. On Thursday, June 29, the Town Planning Commission held a nearly two-hour-long work session reviewing new documents from the Copper Ridge Data Center Campus and questioning the applicant. There have been some noted improvements to the proposal, but we still have serious concerns about Copper Ridge’s impact on its environs as well as the broader power implications.
We would like to thank the concerned citizens who wrote to the Town about Copper Ridge; your concerns were noted by the Planning Commission, which will be holding a public hearing on this application on July 18 at 6 p.m. at the Culpeper Economic Development Center (803 S Main St, Culpeper, VA 22701).
The applicant has submitted a new site plan which increases the size of the setbacks from the National Cemetery and reduces the number of buildings, among other changes.
These changes would somewhat reduce the visibility of the project from Mountain Brook Estates and from parts of the National Cemetery. No information has been forthcoming on the visibility of the project from the Southeast Historic District, the main body of the National Cemetery, or the Culpeper Historic District. The visibility of any new overhead lines and equipment related to the ten-acre substation was not included in any new site plans or visibility-related information.
Noise remains a concern for this project. The applicant has not provided information regarding the potential range of noise that the facility would be expected to produce. A noise study is required with site plans after a rezoning decision is made. We are concerned that even if Copper Ridge is within the noise level range currently allowed by the Town ordinances, it would still represent a significant, negative impact on the solemnity of the cemetery and the liveability of nearby homes, as well as the health of the people living there. Read more on data center noise →
The work session confirmed that our estimates of the power load of Copper Ridge were correct and that this data center campus would need about 600MW of power at full build-out. We are still deeply worried about what the rapid increase in energy demand will mean for Culpeper’s transmission lines.
Dominion Energy has not provided any public assurances that the existing infrastructure would be able to supply all the power that these data centers anticipate needing. Until we have Dominion on the record about the grid’s ability to handle the exponential increase in power demand, we cannot be sure these data centers won’t trigger the expansion of existing transmission lines or the construction of new transmission lines.
Several concerned citizens brought up other aspects that we agree should be considered by the Town:
As PEC has mentioned previously, most data centers use diesel generators for backup power, which are loud and produce low-level ozone (among other emissions) when in use. Copper Ridge has not submitted any information concerning how many or what type of generators they plan to use or if fuel would be stored on-site, which is a possible groundwater contaminant.
Recycling and disposal of materials
Data centers decommission or completely overhaul their computer equipment every 5-10 years. For a 1.9-2.2 million square foot data center campus, this will be a substantial amount of material that needs to be disposed of. Where will it go? Will it be dumped in the local transfer station? What are the environmental ramifications of this turnover?
‘Forever chemicals’ in coolants
Some data centers use additives in their cooling systems to increase efficiency and reduce energy costs; however, some of the chemicals are highly toxic and may have severe environmental concerns if leaked or spilled. Will Copper Ridge use these additives in their cooling system and if so, how will they dispose of the materials or prevent spills?
We will continue to work with the Town of Culpeper to make sure that it has the information it needs to make this momentous decision. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on this application on July 18 at 6 p.m. at the Culpeper Economic Development Center (803 S Main St, Culpeper, VA 22701).
We encourage you to voice your concerns to the Town Planning Commission either in writing or in person — the impacts from such a massive data center campus would be significant and permanent and must be accounted for if the rezoning is to move forward.
Culpeper Land Use Representative
540-347-2334, ext. 7045