Amazon Web Services plans to invest  billion in Virginia data centers

Amazon Web Services plans to invest $35 billion in Virginia data centers

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Friday that Amazon Web Services plans to invest $35 billion in new data centers in the state through 2040, resulting in the largest economic investment in Commonwealth history.

Lawmakers have yet to approve millions of dollars in stimulus, but a press release from the governor’s office said General Assembly leaders from both parties support the pending deal.

According to the Associated Press, if approved, Amazon would receive incentives from a new Mega Data Center Incentive Program and a grant of up to $140 million for site improvements for workforce development and other costs.

In a tweet, Youngkin said the investment is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs statewide, significantly fewer than the 25,000 job openings that came with Amazon’s decision to build a second headquarters in Arlington County in 2018.

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Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivers his State of the Commonwealth Address before a joint session of the Virginia Legislature in the House of Representatives chamber in Richmond, Virginia on January 11, 2023. (AP Photo/John C Clark)

The exact amount of the grant will be determined by how many jobs will be created, as indicated in legislation under consideration by the General Assembly, the AP reported. It will also include temporary exemptions from a sales and use tax imposed on data centers in Virginia.

Youngkin’s office said data center locations would be determined at a later date. Bills recently proposed in the state legislature would tighten regulations about where the centers can be built.

Data centers have become a politically hot topic, particularly in Northern Virginia (NOVA) where structures are seemingly everywhere. According to Dgtl Infra, Loudoun County, also known as “Data Center Alley,” has the largest concentration of data centers in the country at 115 to 27 million square feet of operating space.

While tech companies favor the NOVA area as a network access point because of the region’s history, many residents have been vocal about the noise and environmental concerns that come with the structure’s influx.

Data centers, which house computer servers and hardware needed to support internet usage, need powerful fans and extensive cooling capacity, which can be quite noisy, the AP said. They also use a lot of electricity, which may require the construction of high-voltage transmission lines to power them.

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Protesters against data centers in northern Virginia

Spencer Snakard, President of Protect Fauquier, speaks at a rally near Manassas, Virginia on August 29, 2022, protesting a newly built data center for Amazon Web Services. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat)

Prince William County’s Bill Wright, who has opposed a massive data center expansion recently approved by the county despite community opposition, said Friday’s announcement proves the impact of big tech money “for our politicians had become intoxicating.

While he doesn’t mind data centers as a whole, Wright told the AP he hopes the state will place them in areas that aren’t harmful to the environment and in rural areas where jobs are needed.

“Northern Virginia gets overwhelmed by these things,” he said. “We might as well start calling ourselves the Commonwealth of Amazon.”

He also said he’s skeptical the state will stand up to tech companies that want the centers in Northern Virginia.

State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, is the sponsor of a bill restricting the placement of data centers near natural or historical resources.

“In my opinion, the data centers are short-term financial gains with long-term environmental consequences. Industrial buildings without actual workers are not the economy of the future,” he said. “In fact, they could be obsolete in a decade. In the meantime, we’re losing valuable farmland and historic sites.”

Petersen said Virginia is at risk of being overwhelmed by data centers if safeguards aren’t put in place.

Amazon hard hats in front of a crane

Hard hats with Amazon logos at the company’s HQ2 development site during construction at Metropolitan Park in Arlington, Virginia on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. (Pete Kiehart/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Suzanne Clark, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, said Amazon Web Services is exploring several site locations “in collaboration with the Commonwealth,” but specific locations were not named.

An Amazon Web Services spokesman did not provide details on the planned number of data centers or Amazon’s location preferences.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.