Bacon Bits: In with the New, Out with the Old

In with the new…

Data Center Alley too hot to handle. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has sold 424 acres west of Dulles International Airport to data-center developer Digital Realty Trust for an eye-popping $236.5 million — $558,000 per acre. MWAA will place $207 million in a segregated account used to reduce costs that airlines pay to do business at the airport. The transaction expands the large and growing data-center presence of Digital Realty in Loudoun County, reports the Washington Business Journal.

Virginia’s next big solar project? Solar developer Community Energy has applied to build 125-megawatts in solar capacity in Augusta County, reports PV magazine. To offset concerns about neighborhood impact, Community Energy plans to surround the facility with a buffer of vegetation and put into place measures to diminish the limited audio output. Instead of purchasing the land, the power company is leasing it from landowners, providing farmers an ongoing revenue stream rather than a lump-sum payment.

Out with the old..

Gutted newsrooms. Ned Oliver with the Virginia Mercury has quantified the shrinkage of news staff at Virginia’s largest daily newspapers in recent years. After quietly laying off another eight newspaper employees at the beginning of the month, the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom has gone from 42 news and sports reporters in 2010 to 26 today, from nine to six photographers, and from 20 to 13 editors. The Virginian-Pilot has dropped from 67 reporters to 33, 35 editors from to 22, and eight photographers to five. Newsroom staff at the Roanoke Times has eroded by 35% to 25 reporters, 11 editors, and three photographers.

“Meanwhile,” writes Oliver, “there is still no clear model for metro and community newspapers to make up for the loss of all that ad money to digital giants like Google and Facebook.”

Tarheel coal ash overflow. In an event sure to impact the debate over coal ash in Virginia, heavy rains from Hurricane Florence eroded a coal ash facility at a Duke Energy power plant near Wilmington, N.C. The utility is investigating the possible release of about 2,000 cubic yards of the material — enough to fill two-thirds of an Olympic-size swimming pool, according to the Herald-Sun. It was not clear whether any of the ash, which contains traces of heavy metals, reached public waterways.

The release reinforces the necessity of removing coal ash from unlined, uncapped containment ponds where electric utilities have been restoring the coal-combustion residue for decades. Environmental Protection Agency regulations were designed to prevent incidents like this by consolidating and capping coal ash ponds. While environmentalists, regulators and utilities haggle over whether it’s better to store the material in lined landfills, a process that could take two to three decades, existing containment ponds remain vulnerable to extreme weather events like Florence.

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13 responses to “Bacon Bits: In with the New, Out with the Old

  1. “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has sold 424 acres west of Dulles International Airport to data-center developer Digital Realty Trust for an eye-popping $236.5 million — $558,000 per acre.”

    My take on this is that it is very good news for N.Va. on several counts:

    1/ This drives a stake thought the heart of the horrendous plan to use these western lands for the operational the hub of a huge traffic generating air cargo warehouse and distribution center, one that would spawn massive amounts of interstate truck traffic, sucking it daily in and out of the worse spot of on the planet, the cul de sac location called Dulles airport.

    2/ “MWAA will place $207 million in a segregated account used to reduce costs that airlines pay to do business at the airport.”

    This is also wonderful news. These fees airlines must pay at Dulles are passed onto the local flying public that uses Dulles (and National Airport too), huge fees imposed by reason the Dulles Airport officials who wasted several billion dollars from 1999 and 2014, using the most expensive and inefficient means imaginable to double the capacity of the airport from 22 million to 45 million passengers annually. Compounding that debacle, that projected increased passenger volume of passengers never showed up to foot the bill. Hence everyone who today flies out of Dulles and National must pay those wasted additional costs imposed by handle passengers who never showed up to the party. So, finally at long last, these $207 millions will help alleviate that burden now imposed on the flying public by reason of the earlier mismanagement of Dulles Airport by Dulles officials.

    3/ A growing data-center presence in the Dulles area, and reduced air fair fees should be a shot in the arm to the surrounding economy, attracting the right kinds of new tenants.

    For example, at this point I would be shocked if Amazon did not choose the Washington DC for its 2nd headquarters. This development at Dulles Airport surely will help Northern Virginia get its share of that Amazon pie, or perhaps even the largest share of the pie in the region, to go along with Micron deal in PW county.

    • Jim reports: “Virginia’s next big solar project? To offset concerns about neighborhood impact, Community Energy plans to surround the facility with a buffer of vegetation, … measures to diminish the limited audio output. Instead of purchasing the land, the power company is leasing it from landowners, providing farmers an ongoing revenue stream ….”

      This too is a wonderful potential development for Virginia and solar power in Virginia. Jim’s post provides link to PV magazine. That article is worth everyone’s time. This includes its discussion of the revolutionary work being pioneered in Maryland, a template providing valuable help in solving the many legitimate obstacles posed by local landowners to these projects. Cost effective, highly practical solutions to real solar farm problems are arising in Md and Va. What a breath of fresh air for America generally.

    • “Gutted newsrooms. Ned Oliver with the Virginia Mercury has quantified the shrinkage of news staff at Virginia’s largest daily newspapers in recent years.”

      This is a national tragedy.

      It is unfolding at the very time that far too many local communities are dying in the traditional sense. There arises in such local places a sliding away of internal coherence – a growing loss of a healthy demographic balance and stability within the local population – a growing lack of effective local government and schools and churches -and now a deterioration of effective, honest to goodness local news.

      In these sorts of local situations, local citizens feel increasingly rootless, disoriented, alone, isolated and fearful, with no place to go locally for sustenance, help and support. Places become unhealthy for all who live there. If this can happen to Charlottesville, Va., it can happen anywhere.

    • Jim reports: “Tarheel coal ash overflow … heavy rains from Hurricane Florence eroded a coal ash facility at a Duke Energy power plant near Wilmington, N.C. The utility is investigating the possible release of about 2,000 cubic yards of the material …

      This recalls all of those thousands of casks of waste nuclear materials stored in ponds or dry storage sites within the sites of nuke plants that bred that waste. This terrible “solution” arose by reason of the stiff environmental group resistance in alliance with politicians like Harry Reid, who thwarted the storage of these casks deep under Yucca Mountain Utah, a project on which the taxpayer and industry has spent to date $billions upon $billions of dollars since 1978, Yes 1978!, in studies and construction costs, all to no avail, except that it has left casks of nuclear waste scattered all over the American landscape, next to nuclear plants. And these same folks refuse repossessing, too, yet another better solution. These actions represent the height of irresponsible and ineffective government.

      Florence too also proves the iron rule that in energy generation and distribution, one must plan for, and be able to counter, the worse case scenario, irrespective of costs. The risks are to high to do otherwise. So don’t rely on folks who engage in land rush tactics intent on profits, quick and big, while passing on the risks of such tactics to the public, often hidden risks that only arise years or decades into the future, after the sponsors and their quick profits are long gone from the scene.

    • “1/ This drives a stake thought the heart of the horrendous plan to use these western lands for the operational the hub of a huge traffic generating air cargo warehouse and distribution center, one that would spawn massive amounts of interstate truck traffic, sucking it daily in and out of the worse spot of on the planet, the cul de sac location called Dulles airport.”

      And thus eliminating the greatest “rationale” for the Bi-County Parkway.

  2. As far as the coah ash incident, I would like to know if this is a new landfill that was constructed to remediate the older pond-ash sites, or an older landfill.

    Re: solar- so what are the lease fees to the landowners? It is a little hard to believe that is economic solution, paying lots of lease fees in addition to the construction. I thought solar was totally free energy.

  3. I agree with Reed in that building data centers near IAD makes a lot more sense than trying to enter the air freight business on a massive scale. I always thought that, given the lack of manufacturing in the area, which, in turn, would require more re-shipment than in many other locations (say New York City for example), this effort was doomed. There just is no competitive advantage.

    I was talking about this with a friend, who works in a land use development supporting business, told me it was really a ruse to get taxpayers to build more roads around Dulles to open more areas to development, including possibly, a link of the Outer Beltway.

    From a different perspective, it’s good to see MWAA generate money to buy down its high operational costs for servicing plane departures and landings without trying to raise the price of tickets at DCA.

  4. Anyone curious about comparing MWAA to WMATA on things like pay and pensions?

    My first thought about the land is how did MWAA get the land to start with and if they obtained it via eminent domain – and it’s not used for a public purpose – doesn’t that land belong to the folks who owned it and had it taken from?

    All these self-proclaimed Conservatives/Faux Libertarian types here at BR – and they almost never stick up for private property owners on eminent domain !!

    Shouldn’t the folks who owned this land originally be the ones who benefit from it’s development rather than MWAA who essentially took it AND it’s increased value from others?

    come on folks. this is not rocket science!!!

    • Larry – it’s my understanding that MWAA does not own the land upon which the airports and associated roadways and rail lines sit. It’s owned by the federal government and has been leased on a long-term basis to MWAA. Virginia also leased its interested in the Dulles Toll Road to MWAA.

      My understanding that the land for IAD proper was condemned by the federal government. Many of the landowners were African Americans living in a community called “Willard.”

      • As so often the case, TMT, you’re right. I also recall that those landowners included a good number of white hard working dairy / corn farmers (real farmers working hard their own land), often of German extraction. So I don’t recall, but could be wrong, anybody out there chasing the hounds on horses, like those fancier folks closer in at Sunset Hills Farm where Reston now sits, or further out towards Leesburg proper.

  5. re: coal ash.

    This is the basic problem with coal ash sitting on river banks. No matter what you do with it in terms of using top or bottom liners – if the river has a big flood – it’s all undone.

    It should not take a genius to see this -and for Dominion to commission a 3rd party to do an “analysis” and for that work product to not address what might happen in the future with regard to flooding – to blithely never talk about that then to go ahead and justify the least expensive “solution” to leave it on site – shows just how bogus such a “study” that is paid for by Dominion really is. In order to get a truly objective analysis that covers all possible future contingencies – we need to have a truly independent 3rd party do that study. You make Dominion pay for it but you have someone other than Dominion pick the company to do the analysis.

    This is just another example of how corrupt the relationship is between Dominion and the GA… who ought not let this happen in the first place!

  6. Re: “put into place measures to diminish the limited audio output.” What noise is there from a solar field? None from the collectors themselves. Potentially, a bothersome humming from the inverter equipment required to convert the DC output of the PV cells into AC power for delivery to the grid. But this equipment is easily shielded with noise suppression fencing or even operated indoors in a soundproofed building. The hard problem with solar generation is its visual, not sonic, impact.

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