In September, I wrote to you about the explosive growth of Virginia’s data center industry and one of the side effects: a major push for new transmission lines.
Since 2021, PEC has been supporting our partners’ heroic efforts to stop the largest data center campus in the world from being built on rural land next to Manassas National Battlefield Park, along Pageland Lane in Prince William County, Virginia.
The proposal, dubbed “Digital Gateway,” is massive and is projected to require around 3 gigawatts (GW) of energy. For context, that’s equivalent to the power used by 750,000 homes – roughly 5 times the number of households currently in Prince William County!
In August, PEC’s Director of Land Use Julie Bolthouse presented “Planning for the Digital Age” to the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Since we last updated you on Amazon’s Warrenton data center, Amazon has spent these couple of months responding to the Town’s first round of comments on its initial site development plan.
The size, scale, and speed at which applications for data center projects are coming in and being approved is astounding.
Just this month, massive proposals moved forward in Culpeper, Louisa, and King George counties, with more being reviewed in Caroline and Stafford counties. Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax, and Fauquier counties all have multiple active proposals for hyperscale data centers, which can demand hundreds of megawatts of power per campus. As an example, the data center campus just approved in King George County could total more than 1,200 MW alone.
Transmission line proposals to serve the explosive growth of data centers in Virginia over the past few years have begun to roll in. On October 31, 2023, PJM, the organization that coordinates electricity transmission in 13 states and the District of Columbia, published their preferred options out of an original, larger set of proposals identified on September 5. The preferred options will be discussed again at the next PJM Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee meeting on December 5, 2023 and then sent to the PJM Board of Managers for review.
In the meantime, PEC has published this online web map to make it easier to view the proposals in one place. Viewers can use the online “Layer List” found on the right-hand side of the map to see the key and toggle on additional layers of interest. Please note, these are general paths, not specific routes. . This map was updated on October 31 to reflect PJM’s most recent set of proposals. An earlier version of the map included all of their original proposed routes.
Data center development in Northern Virginia has been accelerating for years, with a higher concentration in Loudoun County than anywhere else in the world. Data centers use an incredible amount of power, which has been increasing over time as demand for data storage and computing power has skyrocketed. Currently, requests for power are coming in at 60-90 megawatts per building, which is more than the power used by 15,000 households at peak demand. The widespread integration of AI may drive the power consumption up even higher.
We recently learned from a filing made by Dominion in review of their Integrated Resource Plan (their forecast and plan for meeting load demand over the next 15 years), that the utility has already signed agreements with data centers to provide over 13 gigawatts of additional power by 2038. This enormous increase is nearly eight times what’s generated by Dominion’s largest facility, the dual nuclear reactors at North Anna in Louisa County. These transmission line proposals are tied to meeting that demand but they.do not include all of the new data center campuses that have been approved over the last year.
On September 5, 2023, PJM Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee (TEAC) posted a list of 72 project proposals as part of the PJM data center load planning initiative. PEC has reviewed those proposals and digitized many of the paths to include on this map so that people can see what’s being considered and the communities and resources that might be impacted. On October 31, 2023 the list was narrowed down to the set of projects included in the latest version of our webmap.
The PJM TEAC requested proposals for transmission expansion projects to help address modeled “overload violations on the grid” caused by currently operating data centers and to meet immediate load requests for electric service through the planning period (2022-2027). Although not all of these proposals will likely move forward through this “2022 RTEP Window 3” period, it is likely that we will see those not selected return in the next 2023 RTEP Windows.
As a result of the massive data center boom occurring in Virginia, we believe this is only the beginning of the massive transmission line proposals we are likely to see over the next few years.