Upcoming Meetings: Data Centers, Transmission Lines

The following text was sent out via email on May 24, 2024. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

Data center in Ashburn, VA. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Dear Supporter,

I’m sure you have noticed the chatter about the transmission lines being proposed for Loudoun County. Today, I’m writing to invite you to a community meeting coming up on Tuesday, June 11, and to remind you of the connection between approvals for data center rezonings across Loudoun County and the energy demand driving this new transmission infrastructure in our communities.

One of these rezonings that is being considered next week on Tuesday, May 28 is the Greenlin Park Data Center Development. This proposal would rezone 81 acres of forest and former farmland on a 467-acre parcel to allow new data centers by-right. We’re asking Loudoun residents to write to the Planning Commission and ask for a recommendation of denial – more details on that and how you can get involved below.

Join us: Community Meeting on Transmission Lines

June 11 @ 7 – 9 pm 
Heritage High School, 520 Evergreen Mills Rd SE, Leesburg, VA

Join Lansdowne Conservancy, the Loudoun Transmission Line Alliance and PEC for a community meeting on transmission line proliferation in Loudoun resulting from the data center explosion.

New transmission lines will affect local businesses, historic, scenic, and cultural resources, the environment, agricultural communities, and all residents’ quality of life in the rush to meet the power needs of new and existing data centers in Loudoun County.

Attendees will leave with a better understanding of why Loudoun County and surrounding areas are being targeted for data center development and new transmission infrastructure, potential impacts to residents, and the role of various government entities in transmission planning, including the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC). Join us for informative presentations and find out ways you can become involved!

This is a free event. Registration is requested but not required so we know how many to expect.

Topics Covered

  • Dominion Energy’s Aspen to Golden Project (proposed 500/230 kV transmission line route through Ashburn, VA)
  • PJM Interconnection/NextEra Energy’s western Loudoun line (proposed 500 kV lines that would cross Loudoun from the West Virginia border to the Aspen substation south of Leesburg)
  • The U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC) designation, which would have the power to supersede the State Corporation Commission (SCC)
  • Data center development in Loudoun County

Take action: Greenlin Park Data Center Development

The building envelope of the Greenlin Park proposal sits on wooded areas with steep slopes and is adjacent to a major floodplain. Map by Tia Earman/PEC

Loudoun County supervisors have been approving data center applications for years without comprehensive planning for the very real impacts on nearby residents, regional energy infrastructure and our water supply. The updated 2023 zoning ordinance includes changes that will allow the Board to limit the building design, setbacks, noise and other physical impacts of data centers on residential neighborhoods for development applications going forward. We think there’s also more the County can require from these developers under Virginia law – but it has yet to do so.

This leads us to the latest data center development at Greenlin Park, a proposal to rezone 81 acres of former farmland and steep forestlands along Dulles Greenway to allow data centers by-right.

We oppose this rezoning for the following reasons:

  • This rezoning would add up to 2 million more square feet of data centers to the county, contributing to existing constraints on the electric grid due to energy demand and driving the need for new coal generation and transmission lines. It would also increase the county’s reliance on a single industry for most of its tax revenue. And, per Loudoun Water, water-cooled data centers can use up to 1 gallon per day of water per square foot, which could equate to as much as 2,000,000 gallons per day for this site. In comparison, residential usage averages between 358 to 550 gallons per day, based on the size of the unit/home.
  • The site has very to moderately steep slopes that would be heavily graded during construction, which has implications for runoff to Sycolin Creek, a stream that flows through the northwestern section of the property. A proposed substation for the site would be located on this part of the property to connect new transmission lines, adding to the impact.
  • Forested land in the northern portion of the site would be cleared and graded during construction. This mature and native forest includes many specimen trees, or trees the County designates as notable for “their outstanding size and quality for its particular species.” Losing this forestland adds to the overall tree canopy loss in the county and combined with the underlying poor-quality soils would supercharge the resulting runoff.
  • The applicant anticipates that wetlands in the major floodplain would be impacted, including significant habitat for the endangered wood turtle.
  • The applicant has not provided enough information regarding the expected water, sewer, transportation and electrical demand to serve the uses that would be permitted on the property under the rezoning. This has implications for Loudoun taxpayers and Virginia ratepayers whose dollars would be used to build out new infrastructure if required.
  • The concept plan lacks adequate detail regarding building placement, backup power type, number of generators and their location, driveway and parking placement on site, stormwater management details and other information that applicants are generally expected to provide in rezoning and special exception applications for staff to be able to assess potential impacts. 
  • The applicant is planning a building height of 60 feet, which is above the maximum height of 36 feet that the comprehensive plan envisions for the site. This will greatly increase the visual impact of these buildings on the landscape. The increased height would also up the square footage, allowing for more servers and further multiplying the energy demands of the facility.

We urge the Planning Commission to recommend denial — but if recommending approval, to ask that the developer make stronger commitments to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential impacts — at its public hearing on Tuesday, May 28. Please consider sending in your comments, using our form letter as a starting point.

Other data center rezonings

Over the last few months, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has shown signs of a change of heart regarding data center approvals, publicly acknowledging the challenges of and opposition to the industry’s growth at recent hearings. The Board’s April approval of the Belmont Innovation Campus, adjacent to Goose Creek, restricted the square footage of the application to just 1.3 million square feet, bringing it much closer in line with by-right zoning than what was initially proposed for the site and committing to higher standards for items like setbacks and building heights. This is a step in the right direction.

More recently, the Orme Farm rezoning and special exception application in Leesburg’s Joint Land Management Area (JLMA), recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, was forwarded to the July 2 Board meeting for a vote. The proposed rezoning allows for multiple industrial uses, and the applicant is asking for two special exceptions in addition to the rezoning to allow data center space up to 508,000 square feet. Many of the supervisors’ questions and comments revolved around whether the applicant would be willing to remove the data center uses completely, showing a level of responsiveness to public concern about continued data center approvals.

The Board of Supervisors will also be hearing a rezoning application for the Hiddenwood Lane neighborhood in Arcola sometime this summer, which was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission earlier this month. This rezoning would convert 29 acres of residential development, with 15 existing homes on site, to industrial zoning to allow up to 756,000 square feet of data center data space. Hiddenwood is directly adjacent to another neighborhood, Briarfield Estates, and both neighborhoods are boxed in by data center development following prior actions by the Board.

The Hiddenwood Assemblage is one of many neighborhoods impacted by continued data center development in and around Arcola. Map by Watsun Randolph/PEC

Making the connection with transmission line proposals

Data center approvals in Loudoun County and the greater Northern Virginia region are directly contributing to an immediate and staggering energy demand crisis in Virginia. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has a disproportionate hand in this matter. If the Board continues approving new data center rezonings and special exceptions beyond what is allowed under by-right zoning, we all stand to face even more consequences.

The energy demand of data centers is so great that new and expanded transmission line corridors are being proposed to bring in coal-fired energy from West Virginia, and the state is building new natural gas plants to support the astronomical power demand of these industrial behemoths. These actions directly contradict the Virginia Clean Economy Act by increasing air pollution in our region and committing us to up to 10 more years of reliance on coal. This is not only an environmental issue, but a matter of fairness for the communities in the path of these proposals. Why should residents see their air quality, pocketbooks, homes and businesses impacted for the benefit of this single industry?

Currently, proposed transmission projects include NextEra Energy’s Western Loudoun Route, Dominion’s Aspen to Golden route, another new transmission line connection around Dulles Airport, and a federally designated Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC) that would usurp state control, including the State Corporation Commission – all of which you can learn more about at our community meeting on June 11. You can learn more about the NIETC designation and take action here. The deadline to provide public comment is June 24, 2024.

The proposed Mid-Atlantic corridor would cut across public and private lands in Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun and Warren counties to connect data centers with coal power plants. Note that the mapped route is approximate, not exact – the corridor could include existing rights of ways. Map by Watsun Randolph/PEC

Our elected and appointed officials serve the public, and they need to hear from the public to guide them. I hope that you’ll write the Planning Commission before it hears the Greenlin rezoning and join us on June 11 for our community meeting with Lansdowne Conservancy and the Loudoun Transmission Line Alliance. If you have any questions about data centers and transmission lines in Loudoun County, or how PEC is working to address this concerning trend toward industrialization statewide, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Gem Bingol
Senior Land Use Field Representative
540-347-2334 ext. 7041