A Dominion Energy representative announced Thursday that the company has nixed all previously considered transmission line routes to power a proposed Amazon Web Services data center in Warrenton. Instead, the company now proposes building a substation at one of two sites near an existing Dominion substation southeast of Warrenton. The new substation would power the data center, if it is approved, via underground distribution lines routed along Falmouth Street and Walker Drive.
“They are all off the table at this point,” Dominion’s Stephen Precker told county supervisors Thursday in reference to the proposed overhead transmission line routes that have sparked a well-organized resistance from New Baltimore residents and local lobbying groups.
At a Warrenton Planning Commission meeting earlier this month, Amazon representatives said that Dominion is no longer considering building a new substation on Blackwell Road next to the proposed data center. Precker confirmed this on Thursday.
The Fauquier Times in early September asked Precker whether Dominion had considered the possibility of building a new substation on one of the vacant industrial-zoned parcels near the existing transmission line, but Precker vacillated repeatedly at the time and refused to say whether Dominion had explored that possibility at all.
New overhead transmission lines still proposed
Dominion is now seeking to build a new substation either on the industrial-zoned former wire factory property on Falmouth Street, inside town limits, or on a county-owned parcel behind an existing Dominion facility on Meetze Road. Either location would mean a maximum of 2,000 or 3,000 feet of new overhead transmission lines connected to the existing 230 kV line that runs from Remington to Old Auburn Road, Precker said.
Board Chairman Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) was skeptical of some of the details of the new plan, which could mean new overhead transmission lines running for about ¼ of a mile along the Warrenton Branch Greenway. (The existing transmission line from Remington crosses the Greenway near its southeastern terminus.)
“That’s gonna be a problem for us,” Gerhardt told Precker, arguing that the new transmission lines should be underground instead.
Precker responded that undergrounding the new transmission lines “is not a preference from an electrical engineering perspective” because transition stations would need to be constructed on both sides of the underground portion. But under further questioning from supervisors, Precker admitted that Dominion has not explored that possibility at all. “We have not considered that because it’s not what our preferred solution is,” Precker said.
Precker assured supervisors that Dominion will conduct more public outreach, including a public information session, before finalizing its proposal for a new substation. “This is our first proposal here. So more discussions need to be had with you all, with the community, to see what is viable,” Precker said. The State Corporation Commission must sign off on Dominion’s final plans for transmission lines and a substation for any plan to move ahead.
The announcement that all previously proposed routes have been nixed is a victory for activists who have argued that building overhead transmission lines through New Baltimore would devastate the area, which is the county’s highest-income region. Activists still oppose the data center, which is subject to Warrenton Town Council approval, claiming the 220,000 square-foot facility on an industrial-zoned parcel will generate excessive noise and impose an unsightly blemish on one of the town’s gateways.
The Warrenton Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal Nov. 15; the town council could begin considering the application as early as next month.