Data Centers in Loudoun: Free Webinar March 4; Critical Public Hearing March 13

The following text was sent out via email on Feb. 27, 2024. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

map showing a red project area between Goose Creek and residential development along Belmont Ridge Road
Map showing the proposed Belmont Innovation Campus south of Va. Rt. 7 along Belmont Ridge Road.

Dear {{FirstName or “Supporter”}},

Loudoun County is known as the “data center capital of the world” for good reason: there are more data centers here than in any other single jurisdiction across the globe.

Until recently, the benefits the county has gained from years of high tax revenue largely outweighed the negatives of its data center development. However, as the demand for larger and increasingly energy-hungry facilities accelerated, the externalities and long-term community impacts became starkly apparent. Suburban Loudoun residents now find their communities transformed — effectively industrialized — by constant disruptive noise and the looming presence of massive warehouse-like structures. Additionally, with the County’s budget now overly dependent on the data center industry, its financial stability is vulnerable to changes in technology, taxing structure and market demand.

The voracious energy demand of all these data centers has prompted new proposals for transmission line expansions and substations in Loudoun, neighboring counties and even neighboring states. This demand puts Virginia’s climate goals at risk, with Dominion Energy looking to delay the retirement of fossil fuel generation plants and build new fracked gas facilities to fill the gap. The utility has projected that Virginians’ average monthly energy bills will double by 2035 to fund these projects and others like them.

In light of the far-reaching impacts of this development boom and the fact that the high costs of energy infrastructure expansion will fall on ratepayers, PEC and partners pushed for state oversight in this year’s General Assembly session. Unfortunately, our state officials are decidedly not taking action until a study is completed in late 2024. This leaves the onus on localities to protect the public health, safety and welfare of residents, even if the impacts are regional or statewide in nature.

With a huge number of data centers allowed by-right, dozens of data center buildings still under construction, and numerous existing facilities not fully powered or built out, now is the time for Loudoun County to pause and take stock. New and upgraded transmission line proposals can be expected beyond what Dominion has already projected for the immediate future. More than 4,000 diesel generators are providing backup power to existing facilities, posing an unquantified and unstudied impact on air quality. An unknown amount of potable water, in addition to reclaimed water, is being used to cool the facilities.

Loudoun has been the global leader on data center development, but now that the scale, size and scope of data centers has grown so dramatically, Loudoun must also become the global leader on addressing the cumulative impacts on communities, the environment and climate.

Now is the time

The new Board of Supervisors’ term started in January, making now a timely opportunity to set a new agenda for future planning. Loudoun’s supervisors, understanding the cumulative impacts that come from the critical mass of data centers, have initiated amendments to County policies and regulations to better manage the industry’s growth in the county and impacts on residents. But the process will take time; changes are not expected to take effect until at least mid-2025.

With such a lag and so much at stake, we’re urging the Board to pause all data center approvals until these changes are implemented. That means an immediate commitment to reject rezonings, special exceptions or any kind of regulatory waiver.

The next data center proposal up for a vote

First in the queue is the Belmont Innovation Campus application (select under ‘Plan Name’), which will be in front of the Board of Supervisors and the community for a public hearing on March 13. (Another was just in front of the Planning Commission last month and we are tracking other data center applications soon to follow.)

While data center development is allowed by-right on the Belmont Innovation property off Belmont Ridge Road, the applicant is asking for special permission to almost double the square footage and the acreage. This increase would allow for more data servers, resulting in a much higher energy demand for the facility.

Although the applicant has agreed to take steps to protect neighbors and the natural environment beyond the County’s minimum requirements to increase the likelihood of approval, the proposal has many downsides:

  • The development intensity proposed is inappropriate for a site located on the banks of Goose Creek and across from a residential neighborhood.
  • The stated power demand of this proposal is 600 megawatts. For perspective, that is almost equivalent to the maximum generation capacity of the Panda Stonewall natural gas plant on the west side of Goose Creek.
  • Every data center approval puts more pressure on our already strained energy grid, increasing the risk of outages, the use of backup diesel generators, and the need for new power generation and transmission infrastructure.
  • The use of backup diesel generators, and the increased pressure to expand fossil fuel infrastructure on the grid, threatens our air quality, our climate, and are in direct conflict with Virginia’s clean economy goals.

Ask the Board of Supervisors to Pause Data Center Approvals

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the Belmont Innovation data center application on March 13. We hope you’ll come out and ask supervisors to reject this and all other data center proposals until the cumulative impacts are better understood and a public process is completed to determine Loudoun’s next steps when it comes to this type of development.

With every new data center approval by the Board of Supervisors, Loudoun is further committing itself to expensive infrastructure, effects on local communities and climate pollution. These are costs that all Loudoun residents and Virginias are on the hook for.

When you’re in a hole, the first step is to stop digging.

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

Wednesday, March 13 at 6 p.m.
County Government Center, 1 Harrison St. Leesburg, Board Meeting Room

Let us know if you can join us on March 13 → 

Learn more about data centers on Monday, March 4

It’s important that residents understand what’s at stake for their families and their community.

For that reason, PEC is hosting an online town hall this upcoming Monday to share what we’ve learned about this unprecedented, high-stakes issue and the potential consequences for Loudoun residents and Virginians across the state.

During this webinar, we will discuss actions you can take to make a difference. Sign up to learn more and get the link to attend on March 4 →

aerial photo looking out over 4 data center buildings and a transmission line running alongside a bike trail
W&OD Trail in Ashburn, VA. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Thanks for your attention and commitment to following the issues that impact Loudoun. We hope you’ll let us know whether you can attend the public hearing on March 13 to join other residents in demonstrating concern.


Gem Bingol
Senior Land Use Field Representative
540-347-2334 ext. 7041