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July 19, 2018

Another data center planned near Warrenton

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Seattle-based Vadata Inc. invested at least $200 million and received Fauquier County economic development incentives to build this data center at the federal government’s Warrenton Training Center.
New Data Center
• Where: Warrenton Training Center Station B, just northwest of town on View Tree Mountain.

• Site: 40 forested acres, of which 10 to 20 acres would be cleared for concrete pads.

• Structures: Up to 27 “data containers,” each 80-by-65-by-12 feet; two new administrative buildings, along with supporting equipment.

• Backup power: 15 three-megawatt diesel generators, plus smaller generators for administrative buildings.

• Use: National defense and intelligence agencies.

• Jobs: 20 to 35 new, permanent positions.

• Cost: Classified.

• Equipment ownership: Classified; Seattle-based Vadata Inc. recently built a similar data center there and received county tax incentives.

• Construction: Could start as soon as August, with completion likely in 2020.
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Construction soon will begin on a new data center just north of Warrenton.

The installation will cover 10 to 20 acres of the federal government’s secure and secretive Warrenton Training Center Station B, which serves national defense and intelligence agencies.

A 100-page document, recently placed in the public library in Warrenton, provides an overview of the project as part of the required environmental impact assessment.

“The data center would include approximately 27 data processing containers, up to 15 three-megawatt diesel engine generators, two smaller generators (each associated with one of the [two] new administrative buildings) along with supporting infrastructure such as air-cooled chillers, switchgear, transformers and telecommunications equipment,” the document says. “The data processing containers would likely be approximately 80 feet long, 65 feet wide and 12 feet tall.

“The data containers would be assembled in pieces with each section placed by crane onto a concrete slab foundation.”

Due for completion in 2020, the new data center would stand in dense forest just south of Bear Wallow Road on the 346-acre federal compound atop View Tree Mountain.

Vadata Inc., an Amazon subsidiary, in late 2015 got economic development incentives totaling $2.7 million from the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors to build a similar, $200-million data center on the compound. Although neither county officials nor real estate assessment contractors have seen that data center, Fauquier taxes the privately-owned equipment there, based on the information Vadata provides.

But, it remains unclear whether the new data center would expand Vadata’s presence at the training center, involve other private ownership or belong to the federal government. Nothing in the report mentions a private company.

“It could be part of Vadata’s expansion, which we’ve known all along could happen,” Fauquier County Economic Development Director Miles Friedman said.

But, Mr. Friedman admitted he knows little about the new data center.

Fauquier Commissioner of Revenue Ross D’Urso said he has received no request for information about potential local taxes on the proposed development.

Susannah York, a public relations officer at the training center, said she could provide no information about the new data center’s ownership.

“It is on federal property,” Ms. York said.

If government-owned, the new data center would be exempt from local taxes. The environmental assessment document provides no information about the new center’s cost. It will stand at an elevation of 615 feet and just northeast of the Vadata installation.

“Due to security and logistics reasons, the new data center needs to be located within the boundaries of WTC Station B,” the environmental report says. “Expansion of existing data centers at WTC would not provide sufficient capacity.”

The new data center’s backup generators could supply up to 45 megawatts of electricity, enough for about 11,000 homes, indicating another large installation.

Collectively, the 27 data containers would cover just more than 140,000 square feet — about the size of Warrenton’s Walmart.

The data center will create “20 to 35” permanent jobs, and more temporary positions during construction, the public document says. But, “the number of employees and the number of visitors (i.e. for training, meetings and conferences) at WTC is classified information.”

Because of the project’s size, it requires review by a number of environmental agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

In all categories of review, the project will have no adverse impact, according to the report.

The presence of the Northern long-eared bat and a species of freshwater clam on the property presented potential challenges. But, the training center agreed to start forest clearing after the bat’s “pup” season ends July 31 and to avoid water where the clam lives.

Cattail Branch, a stream in the Cedar Run Watershed, runs just north of the project site and just south of Bear Wallow Road.

The environmental report identifies a 40-acre area for the project and says half of that could get disturbed during construction, adding: “WTC would remove as few trees as possible to accommodate the layout of the data center and anticipates that closer to 10 to 15 acres of trees could be cut . . . .

“Most of the project site is on a moderately sloping hillside, with slope varying between approximately 10 and 20 percent,” the report says. It describes the land as “mature eastern U.S. mixed hardwood forest, with some area of pine forest” and underbrush.

The plan calls for retaining tree buffers of up to 500 feet deep around the new data center. Still, it at times would be visible from four private homes in the area, according to the report. And, for security purposes, it will be lighted at night.

“Data centers are ugly,” Ms. York said of the federal installation’s effort to screen the project as much as possible.

Fauquier in recent years has become a popular location for data centers. French cloud computing giant OVH has one at Vint Hill and the board of supervisors recently rezoned property near Remington for a Canadian company that plans a large data center complex.

Dominion Energy in recent years has upgraded electrical lines to the training center. The environmental impact report says the new data center would use existing utilities.
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JDwarrenton · July 25, 2018 at 4:30 pm
The report concludes that the data center "poses no significant impacts to the environment". However, I do not see any discussion of the significant noise impact to the environment and the surrounding residential communities nearby. The current data center generates significant noise as do all data centers. A data center built in Falls Church for the government had to replace all its air handling units for quieter units after the citizens complained. I currently hear the WTC's data center air handling units in the early morning and at night time. I can no longer sleep with the windows open due to the noise.

As for the lighting for security, this will create night light intrusion in an otherwise semi-rural environment. This disrupts birds and the peaceful enjoyment of the night time skies. Since it will be located on the top of Viewtree Mountain, this light intrusion will impact a wider area.

The data center site's 10 to 20% slopes (it slopes 100' over the roughly 600' site width) will require massive earth moving and likely blasting. Why would anyone put a large industrial land use on a mountainside like Viewtree Mountain?

The county should include in its calculations of tax benefits from the personal property taxes on the data center's equipment, the loss of real property taxes on the surrounding properties due to the negative impacts. I for one will be watching.

homeward611 · July 23, 2018 at 5:24 am
"incentives totaling $2.7 million" "If government-owned, the new data center would be exempt from local taxes."

What seems odd to me is why the Fauquier County Board of Sup's would approve that kind of incentive if it won't even increase the tax base. How long will it take for the county to re-coup $2.7million from the 20-35 employees that will have jobs here (and possibly be out of county for that matter).
hugh · July 22, 2018 at 8:38 am
NOT true - NOT a legitimate claim that the Training Center's server farm "needs to be" located on their property. REMOTE! data storage is the basis for cloud computing. Ground facilities can be one to hundreds of miles away. Honestly justify WHY any tree-less nearby farm field closely nearby can't be a viable option.

"Mountain-topping" Warrenton for a 20-plus acre concrete bunker makes the
Govt. no longer a good neighbor here. CIA won't do, or really weigh any genuine Environmental Impact Study before the dense forest's clear-cutting begins.

We all know our Govt. can be deceitful, decide badly, spend wastefully without any accountability. Now, Warrenton's own bucolic high ground will be forever scarred by this deforestation...our "View Tree Mountain" becoming "View Concrete Scab Mountain."
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