Data / Environment / Real estate

A ‘clean cloud community’ is coming to Frederick

Quantum Loophole and TPG are master planning a data center campus in Frederick County, Maryland. Here's how they're taking the environment into account as they build.

Racks on racks. (Photo by Flickr user Bob Mical, used under a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of Tech and the Environment Month of's editorial calendar.

Powered by an investment from TPG Real Estate Partners (TREP), Texas company Quantum Loophole has big plans for tech infrastrcuture in Frederick County, Maryland.

With the acquisition of the former Alcoa Eastalco Works site, the company announced plans this week for a new data center (aka one of the big hubs that power the servers and systems for tech companies) campus spread across 2,100 acres. But according to Quantum CEO Josh Snowhorn, the new build is more than just your average data center. He told that people can think of it more like a big master plan for a housing community, where additional data centers can be built either for or by others on the campus.

“From a resource perspective, you can see we have over 2,000 acres of land, but we have all these different parcels of land to divide and create what will become a master plan,” Snowhorn said, adding that it will essentially be an “industrial complex.”

He said the company is taking a more holistic approach to data centers and dividing up “pieces of the pie” to help others build out their own data centers sustainably, while also providing energy to power them.

“The main thesis behind our complex though is to be able to provide a centralized energy resource, so bringing in transmission-scale energy that’s highly reliable from the grid,” Snowhorn said. Some of that energy could also be renewable.

For some perspective: One megawatt of solar energy can power about 125 homes in D.C., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and one gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts. Quantum’s first build, which is expected to take about 18 months to complete, will be roughly one gigawatt of transmission power capacity. The company anticipates that less-powerful, 30-to-120 MW capacity modules can be completed in under nine months. Overall, the company thinks it can built about 3 gigawatts of capacity on the campus for its “clean cloud community.”

Josh Snowhorn. (Courtesy photo)

The community also intends to implement some eco-friendly aspects. Snowhorn said the campus will not have on-site renewable energy sources, save for some rooftop solar, but the center will be able to connect to nearby renewable energy sources. It can also feed into a lithium-ion battery farm. Plus, Snowhorn said, Quantum plans to use the nearby gray water that flows by the campus for a centralized cooling plant.

Additionally, Quantum will be building a fiber ring between the campus and northern Virginia, which can tether into the existing ecosystem of carriers. According to Snowhorn, it will be the largest ever built in a single-path conduit path in the area.

Ty Newell, managing director at TREP, said that demand for cloud computing has boomed over the last decade, and it sees Frederick County as an important growth space for the booming data center market in Northern Virginia.

“With industrial zoning and access to significant power capacity, the development site will offer several benefits to a fast-growing hyperscale tenant base that is intensely focused on speed of delivery,” Newell said in a statement.

Snowhorn also hopes to cut down emissions by delivering construction materials to the site via train instead of trucks. The clean-powered data centers also follow the trend of many big tech giants like Facebook and Google, who have made an effort to build renewable-powered data centers to power their sites.

“A percentage of the world’s grid is taken by data centers…” Snowhorn said. “I think you’re seeing a concerted effort to go to 100% renewables and and complete 100% sustainability.”

Series: Tech and the Environment Month 2021

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