Monday, April 17, 2017

Power Lines through Haymarket

After more than two years the State Corporation Commission (SCC) has rendered their decision. The SCC found that the Haymarket 230kV Line and Substation project is necessary for Dominion Power to comply with mandatory reliability standards. In addition, while a single customer is driving the current need for the line, the Commission further stated that the project will permit Dominion Power to maintain reliable electric service to its other customers and support overall growth in the area. The SCC determined that the Railroad and Carver Road routes both met the statutory criteria, but that the Railroad Route is preferable. Their justification is that these options will "minimize adverse impacts.”
Red is Rail Road route, Green is Carver route.

The Commission further concluded that of these two routes, the Railroad Route is preferable because it has lesser impact on local residences. The Railroad Route is the only route that impacts zero residences within 200 feet of the centerline, though the power towers will clearly be visible from nearby homes and homes 500 feet from the center line could be impacted. The heavily wooded area along this route will provide significant screening reducing the visual impacts of the line. However the woods and hydrology will be irreparably impacted. The proposed transmission line would be run on steel poles, with an average height of 110 feet, and require 100-120 foot wide path for the right of way, according to Dominion Power.

The increased energy demand is not for future growth of the Haymarket area and the Rural Crescent of Prince William County, but rather for a single customer with the equivalent demand for power of 700,000 homes. This entire project is to deliver power to a data centers for Amazon. Dominion and the SCC state that this will also strengthen electric reliability for the local area by providing a new source of power and a double circuit line or "loop" provides a networked source, but the locating of a data center outside of the industrial corridor is what is driving the need for the project. The Rural Crescent is not a growth area, or at least not intended to be. Allowing this level of power into the area is another step in the destruction of the Rural Crescent.

The SCC noted that the I-66 Hybrid Route, which placed approximately 3.2 miles of the line underground, would have a significantly greater cost of construction and would be more difficult to construct than any of the alternative routes considered. The SCC found that the costs and adverse impacts of the I-66 Hybrid Route were neither reasonable nor in the public interest. The SCC has given Dominion Power 60 days to seek permission from the county authorizing construction of the Railroad Route (which was blocked by action of the Board of Supervisors), or provide notice to the Commission that construction of the Railroad Route remains blocked. If Dominion Power remains legally blocked from construction of the power lines along the Railroad Route, the SCC stated, “… the proposed project would need to be constructed along the Carver Road Route” which is not legally blocked by will visually impact many more homes.

Supervisor Pete Candland has asked the other members of the Board of County Supervisors to stand with him and the Gainesville District to demand that the SCC reconsider its recommendation and select the I-66 Hybrid Route. While the SCC has stated they believe this option is too costly, Supervisor Candland believes that the additional costs should be shouldered, not by the taxpayer, but by the single customer that this transmission line will serve.

I believe that the Rural Crescent is no place for a data center. Though we do not generally think of it that way, a data center is an industrial use, not a commercial use in its need for square footage and power with a very large carbon footprint, diesel generators and fuel storage tanks. Data centers are industrial in their energy and environmental footprint, but they employ very few people and pay only limited taxes. I will support Supervisor Candland because having to pay the cost of burying the power lines might induce Amazon to locate their data center within the industrial zone of the county where it belongs.

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