The Washington Post

Dominion seeks to build major underground power line between Arlington, Alexandria

Alexandria officials are questioning a proposal by Dominion Virginia Power to build an underground transmission line between Alexandria and Arlington County, saying that city residents would bear the brunt of the disruption for a project that would not directly benefit them.

In a June 2 letter to Dominion, Alexandria City Manager Rashad M. Young said the utility had presented the $160 million project as a way to “enable better regional electrical reliability and capacity.”

“We have subsequently learned from our own research efforts that part of the need for this project is to feed data centers being constructed in Fairfax and Loudoun” counties, it said.

As proof, Young included a copy of a February report from PJM, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity. The report says that the Dominion system was “experiencing significant load growth capacity” in Northern Virginia “primarily due to new computer data centers locating in the area.”

“What we’re concerned about is the impact on our community and businesses,” Young said in an interview Friday afternoon. “What makes us more concerned is if this line was to supply power to outside counties while we have the disruption.”

Scott Hathaway, Dominion’s vice president for electric transmission, wrote back, saying that the proposal for a 230-kilovolt line was “in response to a local reliability load issue that Dominion planning engineers have identified that could potentially impact neighbors by 2018 . . . [This] project is not connected to or spurred by any data center construction/development in surrounding counties.”

Dominion representatives will appear at an Alexandria City Council meeting Wednesday evening to provide an overview of the proposal.

The project would add to and upgrade equipment at the switching station between Dominion’s Four Mile Run substation in Arlington and a parking lot near the Pepco switching station along the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria. It does not involve the NRG power plant previously owned by Pepco, GenOn and Mirant, which closed more than a year ago. Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson stressed that the project is in its earliest stages and will be the subject of public hearings.

She said Arlington officials have expressed no objections to the proposal. Those officials could not be reached to comment late Friday afternoon.

Young said that Dominion’s four-year timeline for the project seemed “very ambitious, given the importance, complexity and long-term impact” on the city.

Routing buried transmission lines of this size beneath city streets “presents both short-term traffic and development issues,” he said in his letter, “but more importantly it perpetually complicates any future utility work or changes in road structure or alignment in any place where the line is buried.”

He said an underground line in the Route 1 corridor has complicated development and the building of public infrastructure there and noted that the sites where the proposed line would be built are also slated for development in coming years.

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.


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