Skip navigation

Data Centers Low-Key on Va. Power Line Plan

Data center operators are reluctant to take sides in a controversy about a proposed high-voltage line to boost power availability in northern Virginia.

A proposal by Dominion Virginia Power to build a new 500 kilovolt power line through a 65-mile stretch of rural Northern Virginia has become a political hot potato. While local businesses yearn for more power, area residents don't want the associated towers and high-voltage lines, which can affect real estate values. The region's data center providers would be significant beneficiaries of the $243 million power line, but have been reluctant to take sides in the dispute, according to an article in today's Washington Post.

Dominion says northern Virginia's peak electricity demand has jumped 76 percent since 1990, and notes that about 25 data center projects are planned to come online in the next several years. But data center builders have not become involved in business groups seeking to build support for the additional power, like the Coalition for Reliable Energy:

So far, the coalition has had little success enlisting data center operators to its ranks, despite Dominion's claims they would be prime beneficiaries of the new line. "We talked to several people considering building data centers in Northern Virginia," said Le-Ha Anderson, a Dominion spokeswoman. "So far there's not much willingness to come out to support the transmission line."

Officials of DuPont Fabros (DFT) and Savvis (SVVS) declined to take a position when contacted by the Post.

An exception is Equinix (EQIX) which sent a letter supporting Dominion to the State Corporation Commission, and has pledged to testify on the power company's behalf. The Northern Virginia Technology Council, an association representing about 1,100 technology companies, decided not to endorse either side after hearing presentations from Dominion and the opposing Piedmont Environmental Council.

Further south, a dispute over a Dominion power line in Culpeper County, Virginia briefly threatened to delay progress on the new Terremark data center in Culpeper. The new 115-kilovolt line was approved by local officials on Oct. 2 after Dominion made changes in the path and height of the towers to address the concerns of local landowners.