Virginia is subsidizing billions of dollars in data center development on the backs of its ratepayers, without a full understanding of the long-term ramifications.
Transmission line proposals to serve the explosive growth of data centers in Virginia over the past few years have begun to roll in. On September 5, 2023, PJM, the organization that coordinates electricity transmission in 13 states and the District of Columbia, published 72 proposals identified as part of its data center load planning initiative. The public will learn more about which projects might move forward during PJM’s next Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee (TEAC) meeting on October 3, 2023.
In the meantime, PEC has published this online web map to make it easier to view most of 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.
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.
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.
On Tuesday, Aug. 15, the Planning Commission vote on Copper Ridge was tied 2-2, with one of the commissioners having recused himself. The data center campus rezoning now heads to the Town Council on Sept. 12 without a recommendation either way, and we are writing to ask you to weigh in with the Town Council before it votes.
On Thursday, June 29, the Town Planning Commission held a nearly two-hour-long work session reviewing new documents from the Copper Ridge Data Center Campus and questioning the applicant.
On June 10, 2023, The Piedmont Environmental Council hosted our annual meeting in Loudoun County and featured a workshop on data centers and Virginia’s clean energy future. The presentation, given by PEC’s Senior Energy and Climate Policy Analyst Ashish Kapoor and Director of Land Use Julie Bolthouse, is available to view and download below.