Surry approves ‘emerging technologies’ zoning district

Published 4:17 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Surry County supervisors on Jan. 4 approved the creation of a new “emerging technologies” zoning district, intended to create a path forward for the nation’s first combination hydrogen fuel hub and data center.

Middleburg-based Green Energy Partners announced in April it had acquired 641 acres for the combination data center and hydrogen hub adjacent to Dominion Energy’s Surry nuclear power plant after a two-year search across the East Coast for prospective sites. Green Energy initially planned to break ground as early as the fourth quarter of 2024, but before that can happen, it must receive rezoning approval.

Prior to the ordinance change, Surry lacked an adequate zoning district to classify the first-of-its-kind facility, according to county officials. With the ordinance now in place, Green Energy’s project and others like it can now apply for rezoning.

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The district requires at least 500 acres of contiguous land to qualify for the zoning and caps the height of any structure at 75 feet, or from five to seven stories.

Permitted uses within the new zoning include “data warehouse center” and “renewable energy generation facility.” A conditional use permit would be required for the four to six small, modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs, Green Energy is proposing to power the facility.

Data centers are physical buildings that house computer infrastructure needed to run file-sharing and internet-based services. According to Green Energy, they often require large amounts of electricity to maintain 24-7 operations and cooling systems, which is why the company is proposing to eventually power the centers on-site. Green Energy, as of April, planned to initially connect the site to Dominion’s existing power grid and bring the SMRs online within the next 10 to 12 years.