The Aligned Ashburn data center in Northern Virginia. (Photo: Aligned)
Aligned Data Centers has signed an agreement to acquire land, power, and water at Quantum Loophole’s massive new data center campus in Adamstown, Maryland, the companies said today. The deal is an important step in extending the Northern Virginia cloud cluster into Frederick County, which sits across the Potomac from Data Center Alley in Ashburn.
The agreement provides room for future growth for Aligned, which is experiencing strong growth and operates two large data centers in Ashburn. It also represents a vote of confidence in the visionary development approach of Quantum Loophole, which seeks to build “data center cities” that provide a long-term home for Internet infrastructure.
“Aligned’s ability to acquire power- and connectivity-rich land in strategic regions is critical to delivering infrastructure at the quality and velocity our customers have come to expect,” said Andrew Schaap, CEO of Aligned Data Centers. “The attractive tax exemptions, power availability, proximity to Northern Virginia, and holistic approach to enabling data center development were key drivers in our decision to choose Frederick County.”
Recent economic incentives have strengthened Maryland’s positioning as an option to host spillover demand from Northern Virginia. In 2020 Maryland enacted new tax breaks for the data center industry, including exemptions from state sales and use tax for investments of $5 million or more. Frederick County recently amended its zoning ordinances, explicitly designating data centers as a permitted use in areas zoned light industrial or general industrial.
Quantum Loophole’s Big Vision
Aligned is the first announced tenant for Quantum Loophole, which is envisioned as a prototype for the future of data center campuses, providing cloud computing companies with huge sites that offer enough land and power for years of growth.
The data center startup has positioned its first campus adjacent to the world’s largest and fastest-growing data center market in Northern Virginia, where cloud builders’ appetite for real estate has left a limited supply of development parcels, and driven land prices higher. Meanwhile, local officials in Loudoun and Prince William counties are wrestling with community tensions around the rapid growth of cloud infrastructure.
Quantum Loophole CEO Josh Snowhorn describes the project as the “first-ever, mass-scale gigawatt data center community.” The huge campus will tap the massive power infrastructure of the former Alcoa Eastalco Works smelting plant, which offers a gigawatt of transmission power capacity.
Adamstown is about 20 miles north of Ashburn, or about the same distance between Ashburn and Manassas in Prince William County, where a growing data center cluster has emerged.
“Location is everything in the data center industry, and Aligned Data Centers is one of the first to recognize this opportunity for their future development needs,” said Snowhorn. “Quantum Loophole identified a location in proximity to a market that has sparse availability for future development. With more than 2,100 acres of land, our Frederick County community is purposely designed to support mass-scale data center developments including gigawatts of power, recycled water, and dedicated connectivity in an automated environment.”
Quantum Loophole’s approach is optimized for the largest players in hyperscale computing, who operate cloud campuses that concentrate massive amounts of computing power in multiple data center facilities. These data center hubs enable companies to rapidly add server capacity and electric power, creating economies of scale as more workloads migrate into these massive server farms.
That fits with trends in data center leasing in which hyperscale customers – a group led by Meta, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google – are racing to reserve space to ensure they have room to keep growing for 2 to 5 years.
Quantum Loophole has begun work on a robust fiber loop called QLoop that will connect its Frederick County campus with key hubs in Ashburn. It Also plans new approaches to backup power and network management, including a “battery farm” to offer large-scale energy storage, as well as a robotic cross-connect system to automate interconnections.
“Our sales funnel is bursting with interest,” said Snowhorn.
Aligned Continues Rapid Growth
Aligned is a technology infrastructure developer that solves data center capacity management challenges through innovation in cooling and the supply chain. Its offering is positioned to appeal to technology-focused customers, especially growing Internet companies.
Aligned has big plans for growth, including 270 megawatts (MWs) of planned new development in 2022. Schaap said that the company has “400+ MW of additional capacity planned in the Northern Virginia region alone.” Aligned just opened its first data center in Chicago and broke ground on a second, and recently announced the expansion of its Phoenix campus to include a fourth data center.
Aligned enters new markets with large projects, and selects sites with the ability to add additional buildings. The company recently acquired property in Salt Lake City for a build-to-suit data center project, and is also expanding into the Greater Chicago market. Aligned operates data center campuses in Dallas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Ashburn, Virginia.
The agreement with Quantum Loophole provides Aligned with additional, strategic expansion capacity, enabling rapid scale to meet the needs of its customers in a highly land-and power-constrained region. Frederick County will be Aligned’s third hyperscale data center campus in the region, with additional expansion planned for 2022.