CloudHQ, a hyperscale data center developer and operator in the United States and Europe, through its subsidiary CloudHQ UK Limited, is in the process of developing an 81-megawatt, 831k sqft (77.2k sqm), hyperscale data center campus around Didcot, England, a town located ~60 miles (~97 kilometers) west of Central London. At full build-out, CloudHQ’s Didcot data center campus will represent a total capital investment of ~£700m.
Originally submitted for planning approval in September 2018 and granted conditional planning permission in June 2019, CloudHQ’s inaugural European data center has faced a number of timeline setbacks. Indeed, as of November 2021, required remedial works for the development site were only partially discharged – with CloudHQ requiring a full discharge in order to commence the construction phase of its data center facilities.
With this background, Dgtl Infra reviews the details of CloudHQ’s sizable data center development outside of London, UK and analyzes the site enablement works which are delaying construction of the campus.
CloudHQ – Didcot, England Data Center
CloudHQ’s data center development project is located in Vale of White Horse district, to the northwest of Didcot, in the county of Oxfordshire, England (OX14 4TA).
The data center campus will be constructed on 34 acres (13.7 hectares) of land to the east of Sutton Courtenay Lane and to the west of Didcot B Power Station. Specifically, the red line highlighted below indicates the approximate site boundary:
Additionally, CloudHQ’s data center site is within the Science Vale growth area, one of the largest science and technology business clusters in the UK, outside of London.
CloudHQ intends to build a data center campus comprising two buildings, each with 40.5 megawatts of critical IT load and 416k sqft (38.6k sqm) of gross external area (GEA). Therefore, the CloudHQ data center campus in Didcot, England will ultimately span 81 megawatts of critical IT load across 831k sqft (77.2k sqm) of GEA.
Furthermore, incorporating space which houses back-up diesel generators, as well as technical and amenity area, the total data center campus size increases to 1.0 million sqft (96.1k sqm) of GEA.
Each of CloudHQ’s data center buildings will rise a maximum of 47 feet (14.4 meters) in height and up to 54 feet (16.4 meters) in height, measuring to the top of the generator exhausts.
Power and Back-Up
CloudHQ’s future data center campus will be supplied with utility power by a 150 MVA substation unit at 33kV. Specifically, this substation will comprise 4 single-story units within a fenced compound on the northeast portion of the site (see below).
Additionally, the campus will include up to 76 back-up diesel generators and storage tanks for diesel fuel. Notably, the diesel fuel storage tanks will have a total combined capacity of 1.73m liters, representing 48 hours of capacity at full load.
Employment and Economic Development
During its operational phase, CloudHQ anticipates that the Didcot data center campus will employ ~150 full-time equivalent (FTE) skilled workers in the IT / technology sectors.
Furthermore, the data center campus will generate business rates receipts (i.e., property tax) comprising an estimated £4.0m per year.
Timeline Delay – CloudHQ’s Didcot Development
At the time of CloudHQ’s original planning application submission to the Vale of White Horse District Council, the company proposed to construct the eastern-most data center building first, with construction anticipated to commence in the first-half of 2019. Furthermore, the company expected that the construction period would span ~18 months.
Under CloudHQ’s original timeline, construction would have commenced, at the latest, by the end of June 2019, with completion 18 months thereafter, at year-end 2020. Nevertheless, CloudHQ currently remains stuck in site clearance and preparation works for the project.
To-date, Stage 1 enablement works have been completed satisfactorily at the site. However, Stage 2 enablement works are still required for CloudHQ’s project to receive a full discharge of its planning conditions and, in turn, authorize the construction phase of its data center facilities.
Stage 1 Enablement Works
Below is a summary of the Stage 1 enablement works undertaken at CloudHQ’s Didcot site to-date:
- Site clearance, including a first stage sweep of the site for asbestos-containing material (ACM)
- Decommissioning of the above-ground storage tank (AST), historically identified as a hotspot for hydrocarbon contamination
- Excavation of ‘landfill-type’ man-made ground across the site for the purpose of creating the surface platform for data center development
- Disposal off-site of asbestos-containing material (ACM) contaminated soils to a waste disposal facility
Presently, remediation enablement works are only partially complete. As such, CloudHQ needs to complete further actions through Stage 2 enablement works, prior to commencement of the construction of its data centers.
Stage 2 Enablement Works
Notable Stage 2 enablement works, which require further mitigation, include the below:
- Testing and characterization of existing soil stockpiles on-site to determine if they are suitable for use (see image below)
- Two ponds on the southeast of the site will need re-excavation. Subsequently, the material will require inspection, processing, and testing
- Remnant concrete slabs, below ground obstructions, and historical services remain on-site and need excavation to allow inspection. Additionally, there remains a risk for visible asbestos-containing material (ACM) and deleterious material to be present
- Install ‘clean’ services corridors in the borrow pit areas and excavate & reinstate with clean soils
Presently, it is unclear when CloudHQ will complete the enablement stage of site works and shift to the construction phase of its data centers. Assuming CloudHQ could construct its first data center in ~18 months (original construction period) from present day, the facility would not be operational until late 2023.
CloudHQ – Overview
Since inception in 2016, CloudHQ has completed the development of 1.2 million sqft of data center space. Additionally, the company is currently constructing an incremental 1.7 million sqft of data center space. Overall, these facilities comprise 430 megawatts of power capacity across 7 buildings.
Geographically, CloudHQ’s existing and planned data center campuses include Ashburn, Virginia; Manassas, Virginia; Mount Prospect (Chicago), Illinois; London, UK; Paris, France; Frankfurt (Offenbach), Germany; and São Paulo, Brazil, amongst other markets.
CloudHQ’s principal shareholders include Hossein Fateh (Fateh Family Office), who is the CEO and President of CloudHQ, as well as Keith Harney, the CFO and COO of CloudHQ.