A project in Wise County, Virginia, will investigate using water from a disused mine to cool a data center.

The Data Center Ridge project will develop a data center cooled by up to 10 billion gallons of water in the abandoned Bullitt coal mine, outside the town of Appalachia in Wise County.

mine cooling wise county
An artist's impression of Data Center Ridge – Energy Delta

It's part of a plan to redevelop the area where the mine was closed and sealed in the 1990s, and is funded from multiple sources and involves Energy Delta Lab, a partnership involving the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority, Virginia Energy, InvestSWVA and utility companies Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy.

The Abandoned Mine Land (AMLER) federal grant program has approved $3 million for Data Center Ridge, which also has been granted $1.5 million from the Department of Energy for work on an access road and initial site preparation, according to Times News.

Data Center Ridge is planned as a 400-acre data center campus, with up to 1GW of clean energy powering ”the most sustainable and energy-efficient data center cluster in the world," according to Energy Delta (Discovery Education Learning & Technology Accelerator) Lab's site.

Delta has designed Oasis, a closed-loop HVAC-based cooling system, that uses water below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in underground mine workings,

The group is working on a template of 36MW facilities, each taking up 250,000 sq ft (23,000 sqm) and housing 150,000 sq ft (14,00 sqm) of raised floor space, which would be owned and operated by partners such as Amazon Web Services, Alphabet or Microsoft.

The buildings would also hold office space, telecom equipment, electrical/mechanical rooms, shipping/receiving areas, and security.

Each 36MW facility is projected to create $15.7 million in real estate and property tax revenues over the first five years of operation, support 2,048 jobs during the 18-month construction period, with 40 continuing data center jobs and economic activity to support 59 additional jobs, according to analysis by Mangum Economics.

Virginia Energy Plan

The Virginia Energy Plan, a selection of clean energy investments in Wise County was announced by Governor Glenn Youngkin in October, and could amount to $8.25 billion in capital investments, and generate up to 1,650 jobs, Virginia Business reported.

Energy Delta Lab, created in 2022 as part of the Virginia Energy Plan, will be the primary developer for a mix of projects including natural gas, nuclear, wind, hydrogen, batteries, pumped storage hydro, and other emerging energy sources, on 65,000 acres of former coal mining land owned by a company called Energy Transfer.

“The commonwealth’s power demand is skyrocketing, and now is the time to make strategic investments in energy infrastructure to meet our growing needs,” Youngkin said in October.

“This is the next step toward attracting data centers to the region as well as showing prospects that wind and solar power can help provide cheap power for those centers,” said InvestSWVA marketing partnership consultant Will Payne, speaking of the grants.

The Bullitt mine has also been picked as a potential site for nuclear small modular reactors (SMRs), reports Cardinal News, and pumped-storage hydro has also been proposed at the site.

“There would be distinct advantages of having an SMR in an area where you also have all the things that are going on with the Delta Lab,” Duane Miller, executive director of the Lenowisco planning area told Cardinal News.

Also in Wise County, Energy Delta Lab is managing two other sites: Meade Fork near the town of Pound, where a solar energy facility is planned, and Project Intersection which has received federal grants to create a business park containing data centers on former mining land, which also might be given SMRs.

Project Intersection had $800,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission grant and a $3.16 million loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development loan to build a 20,000-square-foot building.

The federal grants await final approval.