Data Center Power Transmission Bill Introduced in Virginia

If passed, Amazon would be forced to pay for building transmission lines underground

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

January 16, 2015

2 Min Read
Data Center Power Transmission Bill Introduced in Virginia
Resident opposition to construction of a new power transmission line to serve the data center Amazon wants to build in Prince William County in Virginia has prompted state legislators to write a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Responding to outrage by many of his constituents in Prince William County about the proposed new power transmission lines for a future Amazon data center, Virginia State Delegate Robert Marshall, a Republican, introduced a bill that would require data center owners to foot the bill for burying transmission lines underground.

When utility Dominion Power proposed construction of a 230 kV transmission line and a new substation to serve the future data center, many local residents voiced strong opposition, fearing the transmission lines would bring property values in the area down. One solution would be to burying the lines, but, according to Dominion, that would be a much more costly alternative.

Virginia, and especially Northern Virginia, is a data center hotbed. It is one of the nation's biggest data center markets, primarily because of the high amount of network connectivity options available in the region.

According to planning documents, the proposed 500,000 square foot data center project in the Town of Haymarket will be built by Vadata, a wholly owned Amazon subsidiary that handles data center construction for the e-commerce giant.

Marshall’s bill, filed Monday January 12, proposes to change state law to require any proposed data center that needs a 230 kV or higher electrical transmission line to be located in areas zoned for industrial use. If they’re outside of zoned industrial areas, the transmission lines that serve them must be buried underground at the data center owner’s expense.

The planned Amazon data center would be in a non-industrial zone, and therefore, if it passed, the company would have to pay for laying the transmission lines underground.

Opposition to the transmission line proposal among Marshall’s constituents has been strong.

A group called the Coalition to Protect Prince William County formed in opposition to the proposed power lines. A town hall meeting about the project earlier this week filled every seat at a local high school auditorium, to a point where those who arrived late had to stand in the aisles, Washington Post reported. The auditorium’s capacity is 800.

Before penning the bill, Marshall and Virginia State Senator Richard Black (also a Republican) sent a letter directly to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, asking to consider either changing the location of the project to an industrial-zoned property just outside of Haymarket, or to build the transmission lines underground.

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