Back In The Trenches – A New LTE

Newspaper Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Back quite a few years ago, when we first moved up to Northern Virginia, I was actively writing Letters to the Editor (LTE) of my local newspaper. Between 2007 to 2008, we still had a local dead tree newspaper, an openly hard-rightwing publication judging by their columnists and general editorial slant.

Regrettably, that all ended when the newspaper collapsed. All we have now are some small online publications, still mostly right-wing oriented. This week I decided it was time to get back into writing LTEs again.

Former Targets of Opportunity

My early targets for LTEs were the outlandish rightwing columnists and their frequently bizarre columns. No one seemed to be rebutting them so I decided I had to. My LTEs seemed to be the only ones taking a “left-wing ” slant – i.e.: grounded in reality. Then the “Potomac News” expanded to an online version while maintaining their dead tree edition. They included an early form of news and editorials comment forums, which opened the floodgates to reader commenting.

Once the comments section opened, I mostly stopped writing LTEs as I could be much more fluent with online commenting. Good times were had. I believe I achieved a pinnacle of success when the Potomac News editors started blocking my account and deleting my comments. While simultaneously piously claiming their respect for the First Amendment and diversity of opinions. Apparently except for when I hurt the feelings of their columnists by pointing out their right-wing craziness.

Then the paper collapsed about 2010, and since then we’ve had at best some very small local online news outlets. My LTE/comments writing stopped.

Back To Now

Recently, I was inspired to get back into sharing my opinions through LTEs. It seems our local Prince William County (PWC) Board of Supervisors (BoS) is pushing a massive data center project in the area of this county that local planning has reserved as the “rural crescent.” This is an large portion of our fast-developing county zoned for agriculture. So, what better place that a zoned agricultural area to place a 125 acre datacenter?

Some people in local Democratic groups have started publicly speaking out and writing LTEs to the largest local news media “Prince William Times.” I decided I needed to add my $0.02 worth of opinion with some logistics supportability analysis and questions to the BoS. The more I look at this project, the less it makes sense.

My New LTE

I submitted my LTE to the Prince William Times Opinion page. The system limits letters to 250 words, which forced me to be consist. My unpublished letter is here.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the PWC Board of Supervisors proposal for the massive datacenter in our county. Questions include power and water requirements, and long-term jobs created.

Studies indicate the total power requirements of a datacenter (servers plus HVAC and lighting) are 33 watts/sq ft. The proposed PWC datacenter is planned for 125-acres, 4 million sq feet. So, datacenter power requirements can be estimated as 132MW. In comparison, the Mecklenburg Power Station in Clarkesville, Virginia, generated 138MW.

Where does the necessary power come from? Where do the high-tension power lines run – and whose property values are destroyed by these new power lines?

The heat generated by datacenter electronics requires water cooling towers and massive amounts of water. In 2009, Amazon published estimates showing a 15-megawatt data center can require up to 360,000 gallons of water per day. This indicates our 132MW datacenter may require around 3.17 million gallons of water per day.

Where does this water come from? Where do the pipelines run that carry this water? Where does the water discharge? What does this massive use of water do to our water tables and ecology?

Datacenters are highly automated. Numerous case studies show that datacenters create smaller numbers of jobs than factories or office properties of similar size. Most datacenters today have only 30 – 50 long-term employees.

Why is the BoS claiming hundreds of datacenter jobs will be created?

I think our PWC Board of Supervisors owes us answers to these, and many other questions.

I’ll follow-up if this letter gets published.


I’ve included my worksheet and references for anyone interested in verifying or adding to my work. As always, my worksheet is licensed under a Creative Commons license (BY SA).

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Worksheet and References


February 15, 2023: As a follow-up, this LTE was never published. A few days after submitting my letter, I received a question from the Prince William Times editor asking about my references. I responded with the studies I used to calculate my numbers. Then, zilch. Nada. Nothing. Meanwhile, our BOCS have voted to build the first of what are many more datacenters to come. I guess the fix was already in.

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