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Route For New Rt. 50 Power Line Opposed By Residents, Businesses

© Leesburg Today - 06/29/2015

Plans for a new power line to serve a data center in the Dulles area have riled residents and business leaders, who want to see it placed away from Rt. 50.

Dominion proposes to build a 230kV transmission line in the area because of an expected increase in electrical demand from homes and to accommodate the needs of a data center planned along the highway.

The power line would connect to an existing line east of Racefield Lane and generally span the Rt. 50 corridor from a point just west of Stone Ridge to a new substation east of the intersection of that highway and Poland Road, near the planned data center site on the South Riding Nursery parcel.

The big question about the precise route of the 4-mile line had been whether it would be north or south of Rt. 50. Then Dominion in May filed paperwork with the State Corporation Commission stating its preferred pathway would be on the south side of Rt. 50. The SCC has the final say on the line's route.

Some opposition to the line's route had been voiced earlier, but the filing seems to have triggered even more criticism.

Although part of the reason for the new power line is the data center, Dominion spokesman Chuck Penn said in April that the housing boom in the Dulles area means the line would be necessary even if the high-tech business were not planned.

But a group of speakers, including representatives from developers Toll Brothers, the Van Metre Cos. and the Peterson Cos., expressed concerns to the Board of Supervisors earlier this month about the line and about the data center.

For example, Ben Brown, chief operating officer of the StoneSprings Hospital Center, which is under construction in the area, said that the line could impact emergency helicopters.

""The 125-foot towers would be taller than the hospital and would pose a significant safety risk to medevac units and our critically ill patients who would require air transport to a higher level of care,"" Brown said.

And Kevin Turner, president of South Riding Proprietary, said the lines along Rt. 50 ""will drive high-end commercial retail away, in contrast to the residents' desires to bring them more high-end commercial retail to the area.""

""If it is your intent to make the Rt. 50 corridor a gateway to Loudoun's wine country, the way to do it is not putting massive transmission lines along this corridor,"" Turner told the supervisors. ""This is not meant to be the New Jersey Turnpike of Loudoun County but rather a welcoming and distinctive gateway to the western part of the county. Say 'no' to towers on Rt. 50.""

The Dulles South Alliance, a group that aims to provide a voice for businesses and residents in the part of Loudoun, also adopted a resolution in May that asks the supervisors to push for a new alignment proposal from Dominion that doesn't impact Rt. 50.

County officials have declined to name the company that's building the data center, and Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the facility doesn't need an OK from the Loudoun board.

But he and Supervisor Janet S. Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) have been discussing data center zoning regulations. The Board of Supervisors are scheduled Wednesday to take up the issue of changing the rules that apply to commercially zoned land along Rt. 50, and Clarke said last week that she would push for an approval process for data centers to be instituted countywide.

Data centers need to go where infrastructure can accommodate them, according to Clarke, who has said that the Poland Road data center and another operation nearby together would need the same amount of power that's necessary for 72,000 homes.

She also said that she and Letourneau were planning resolutions about the Poland Road project and the opposition to the transmission line's Rt. 50 path.

In addition to SCC approval, Dominion needs the supervisors' blessing to build the substation associated with the line, and those plans are slated to be submitted later this year or next year.

Assuming the approvals are obtained, the electrical system would begin operation in mid-2018.

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