Near Adamstown in southwestern Frederick County, Quantum Frederick has been as busy as bees. They are creating a large-scale community on which data centers can be built. Quantum Frederick’s large-scale master-planned community is unlike previous data center locations. As Scott Noteboom, Co-Founder and CTO of Quantum Loophole, Inc., says, “Quantum Frederick is smoother, cleaner and greener.”
You may wonder how data centers can be green. It’s in their master plan. Quantum Frederick is a leading designer of low-impact and sustainable data center communities. As you’ll discover, it will be as green as bees and trees.
BROWN TO GREEN
The former home of Alcoa Eastalco Works, the ground Quantum Frederick is developing as a “brownfield.” A brownfield is defined as a property abandoned by a business that dealt with polluting substances. That type of land can be complicated and costly to revitalize. It can also be considered undesirable for many developers. (In this case, Alcoa did comply with mitigation of its pollution. In acquiring the site, Quantum Loophole, Inc., has assumed ongoing responsibility for its environmental cleanliness.) The parent company, Quantum Loophole, Inc., (QL) has a role much like a land developer who creates an infrastructure for various homebuilder companies.
Data centers are often also considered undesirable based on their use of power and water. However, that was before the clean cloud community innovators called Quantum Loophole, Inc. came into the picture. The focus of Quantum Frederick is to be a model for the world...literally! They chose Frederick County as their pilot location to prove how it can be done sustainably and responsibly.
For example, typically a “groundbreaking” event is a group of officials ceremoniously pushing shovels into the dirt for a photo op. Quantum Frederick’s ground-breaking included fifty officials and dignitaries who each planted a tree. In addition to those fifty small new trees, two fully grown native trees were also supplied and planted by the local Rupert Landscaping, using some very large equipment.
Quantum Frederick’s commitment to nature, as well as sustainable and environmentally-friendly development, is rooted in the company’s mission to reimagine the way data center developments are planned, designed and managed. Noteboom explained, “We started the company from a Monday morning quarterback point of view on how data centers had operated in the past, with the question, “How do we better masterplan for what’s next?”
Quantum Frederick has become innovators of land development for data center communities. One key innovation for their Frederick campus is the QLoop, a 40+/- mile fiber ring circling between Maryland and Virginia that provides regional interconnection for amazing capacity and connectivity.
Working with the State of Maryland and the Department of Natural Resources, a 26” conduit was buried more than ninety feet below the bedrock of the Potomac River. With environmental sensitivity, construction was halted during spawning season and again during waterfowl migration through the area.
As the world demands more data faster, the data centers that move into Quantum Frederick’s community can answer that need. Globally on the leading edge, the QLoop can transmit data in milliseconds.
Quantum Frederick’s master-planned community fits smoothly with the Livable Frederick Master Plan. Their well-researched site plan includes respect for and preservation of historic sites and archaeological resources, viewsheds and cultural characteristics. The historic Carrollton Manor, once owned by Charles Carroll—a signer of the Declaration of Independence—and its historic St. Joseph’s Chapel are part of their preservation plan.
And, two initiatives with catchy titles are part of their eco-logical plan. Quantum Frederick has named them “Bees and Trees” and “Trees and Berms”.
“Painstaking plans to minimize the visibility of the boxy buildings were part of the community design,” said Noteboom. The addition of berms with trees will help shield the exterior community from the sight and sounds of the data center. Berms are earthen mounds of soil and compost that also help control water flows.
The “QL Bees & Trees” initiative is their action plan to build habitats for pollinators. Working with groups like Global Tree Initiative, an organization focused on advancing efforts in reforestation, Quantum Frederick is transforming the open space of the brownfield into a nature reserve.
They’re revitalizing the soil and restoring the stream water by not only saving the majority of the trees on 65 acres of woodland, but planting additional overstory and understory trees, plus groundcover of indigenous plants. The result will be over 250 acres of nature reserve.
Despite the fact that land redevelopment can be demanding and environmentally challenging, Quantum Frederick also anticipates saving 88% of the existing 219 specimen trees, with a goal to create a biodiverse habitat. (Quantum Frederick made efforts to design around existing specimen trees, and when possible are relocating those trees where they couldn’t.) Pollinators will be encouraged to move in. The initial action is to provide local apiarists the opportunity to house their colonies of bees on the reserve.
“In our view, clean cloud communities are a new way of looking at data center development. It is an idea whose time has come,” says Josh Snowhorn, CEO & Founder. In addition to preserving and enhancing the natural aspects of the site, Quantum Frederick plans environmentally respectful uses of the resources.
COOLING INNOVATIONS AND SAVING WATER
While data centers have had a reputation of being large consumers of electricity, that story is changing with more environmentally conscious techniques. Cooling the heat-generating computers in early data centers required large amounts of energy for air-conditioning. The industry then adapted the old farmer’s technique for cooling off a chicken coop with a copula. The copula would release hot air out through the roof and draw cool air in. The “chicken coop design” reduced a data center’s use of cooling energy by as much as 80%. When temperatures are below 85 degrees, the outside air economization aspect of “chicken coop” type designs are very efficient. Frederick County’s climate is perfect for using that technique for over 90% of the year. For the remaining 10% of the year, an evaporative cooling system, like “swamp coolers,” does the job. Working in partnership with Frederick County, Quantum Frederick is delivering an approach that avoids the use of domestic drinking water in data center cooling. Instead, all water-based cooling will utilize properly treated municipal wastewater. “Quantum Frederick is the first purpose-built data center community to enable this cooling design,” Noteboom shared. “The County has been very helpful in enabling its development, thus reducing the need for data centers to use county water intended for drinking.”
A DIELECTRIC FUTURE
In the future, data center computers could be working in a dielectric fluid environment. Dielectric fluid, a non-toxic substance made from food-grade components, was first developed more than 60 years ago to allow electronics to operate in a fluid environment. As today’s computing needs have increased, dielectric cooling has become increasingly desirable. Like the human brain, computers housed in fluid function better. Not only do they use less cooling energy, the heat generated by the computers in that environment can be captured as energy. In addition, the new CPU chips live longer in this environment, slowing the need to replace chips made with globally scarce raw components.
Frederick County has a unique regional climate that provides natural cooling most of the year. In this location, the data center community facilities will have a lower demand for artificial cooling devices. Power usage for cooling will only reach historically typical levels in July and August. “Quantum Frederick is not only upgrading the infrastructure, but the technology going in is also innovative and different. It’s a truly revolutionary “green” campus,” said Beth Woodring, Director of Business Attraction and Finance with Frederick County Office of Economic Development. “We are investing many millions in enabling and generating renewable energy. It better enables renewable energy for Quantum Frederick and the community,” Noteboom stated. “The heat generated by the data centers will be directed for re-use in generating renewable energy to be used by Quantum Frederick as well as the broader Frederick community.” He described wind and solar energy as “breathing entities,” but noted they’re inconsistent. Quantum Frederick has developed “larger lungs,” or battery storage systems to more efficiently hold that energy. “Our investments in renewable energy and energy storage technologies enable 24/7 availability of 100% renewable energy to our data center community while also making it available to our neighbors throughout Frederick County.” Like other data center areas, Quantum Frederick will have diesel generators. However, based on their energy plan and their location under high transmission lines, use of the generators will be significantly reduced. In fact, they may only need to run during the regulatory function-checking sessions. The Quantum Frederick project is based on a naturefirst design aesthetic that also reduces public impact. “We have re-imagined the way data centers can be developed in concert with natural resources, for sustainability within the industry and our planet,” said Josh Snowhorn, CEO & Founder. “A key part of our mission is properly connecting the synergies between traditional farming and data farming in a way that best benefits the natural environment and human culture of Frederick County,” Noteboom added.
Working with the Community Foundation of Frederick County, Quantum Frederick is also establishing a donor-advised fund to invest in the broader Quantum Frederick community’s culture and history. Preserving agriculture and conserving nature are the two key factors Noteboom mentioned. Recently, Quantum Frederick made a $100,000 good neighbor donation to St Joseph-on-Carrollton Manor Catholic Church. The funds will go toward preserving the chapel Charles Carroll established 200 years ago.