Could Water from Abandoned Coal Mines Lure Data Centers to SWVA?

Oct 7, 2019

Loudoun County has the world’s largest concentration of data centers. But what about Southwest Virginia?

One new economic development effort hopes to bring data centers to coal country.

There’s something in the water in Southwest Virginia: coal. Many abandoned coal mines have filled with groundwater, which means the region has a stockpile of coal-infused water.

Credit SparkFun Electonics via flickr.com / CC

Will Payne at Coalfields Strategies says that’s an economic development tool that could attract data centers to the region. “Using the 52 degree mine pooled water as opposed to room temperature water means that energy consumption is significantly lowered,” Payne says.

Lower energy consumption means saving money on utility bills, which could be an incentive for an industry that already has one data center in Wise County.

Josh Levi leads the Data Center Coalition and says the industry could be a significant boost to Southwest. “Data centers are a big driver of tax revenue," Levi argues. "They provide high-wage jobs but put a low demand on local services because they don’t bring in hundreds of jobs per building, tremendous capital investment, substantial construction jobs and activity.”

Project Oasis is the name of the $100,000 economic development effort, funded with a Go Virginia grant and money from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.