Surry planners endorse data center that projects up to 3,000 jobs

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, February 1, 2024

Surry County’s Planning Commission unanimously endorsed Middleburg-based Green Energy Partners’ plans to build a first-in-the-nation combination data center and hydrogen fuel hub adjacent to Dominion Energy’s nuclear power plant.

Green Energy announced last year it had acquired the roughly 600-acre tract of land following a two-year search across the East Coast for prospective sites.

The company expects to break ground this year on the data centers, which will be the project’s first phase conditioned on it receiving rezoning approval. Days after Surry supervisors approved the creation of a new “emerging technologies” zoning district, Green Energy submitted a formal application for rezoning and a map amendment to Surry’s comprehensive plan. With the Planning Commission’s 10-0 approval recommendation on Jan. 29, the matter will head to Surry’s supervisors, likely this month, for a final vote.

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The Surry Green Energy Center, as the project has been named, will initially be connected to Dominion’s power grid, but the company’s plans call for eventually powering the site with four to six small, modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs. Data centers, which house computer infrastructure needed to run file-sharing and internet-based services, often require large amounts of electricity to maintain 24-7 operations.

The United States has used small, modular reactors on nuclear-powered naval vessels for decades, but the idea of using them to power towns and cities on land is relatively new. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 2022 energy plan calls for at least one SMR in Virginia within the next decade. 

Green Energy says the first-of-its-kind facility, upon full buildout, will bring an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new jobs to Surry, though they won’t come all at once or will all positions be permanent.

Green Energy Chief Operating Officer Bill Puckett and Renee Chapline of Surry County’s economic development office each told The Smithfield Times last year that the influx of workers would be gradual over a 10- to 15-year timeframe.

Green Energy, Puckett said in April, was drawn to Surry for its electrical grid and access to fiber-optic high-speed internet. Surry completed the buildout of universal fiber-to-the-home availability in 2021 by partnering with Dominion and Prince George Electric Cooperative subsidiary Ruralband. The fiber buildout and subsequent announcement by Green Energy has spurred talk of further infrastructure investment in the largely rural county, including a House of Delegates resolution that proposes a bridge be built to connect Surry with Jamestown.