Potomac Local: ‘Hybrid’ power line urged for Haymarket

From Potomac Local

by Uriah Kiser

Most people want a portion of a new power transmission line to run above ground and a larger portion to be buried.

That was the takeaway from a public meeting Wednesday night at Battlefield High School near Haymarket, where a proposed 230 kilovolt power line would be used to power a new commercial development that would include an Amazon data center.

The new power line would run from the intersection of Prince William Parkway west to a new substation outside Haymarket. Five routes (which can be viewed online) for the line are being considered, with the “hybrid” line consisting of both above and below ground wires being the most favored option.

“This is the route that everyone supports,” said Haymarket Mayor David Leake, who distributed fliers stating “one message, one route, one voice” to encourage support of the hybrid plan.

The thinking is buried lines will help to keep property values stable. And there are a lot of homes in the Haymarket community just off Interstate 66 that could be impacted by this new powerline.

For the Town of Haymarket, the hybrid plan is a much better than the “railroad” alternative that routes the transmission line along a railroad track directly through the heart of the town.

The hybrid plan also has its drawbacks.

“The fact of the matter is the cost. The [State Corporation Commission] is not going to spend a lot of money on something just to make a small group of people happy,” said Ray Geier, a Haymarket property owner.

Dominion agrees that the hybrid plan would more to build. An initial cost analysis of the hybrid plan showed a price tag of $140 million to build. Revised estimates show it could cost between $80 and $100 million more to build the hybrid line. And those costs would ultimately be passed along to consumers.

“It could be one customer, it could be 10,000 customers. The fact is we have to meet the demand for electricity in this area,” said Dominion spokesman Charles Penn.

Many who came to the meeting said a data center is a business that typically doesn’t create a lot of jobs, and that it wouldn’t add too much to the economic base of the community. Residents accuse Amazon of attempting to drive up otherwise low electric utility rates in the area.

“It’s Amazon not dealing with rising electricity costs in California,” said Elizabeth Ward, of Haymarket, and who also serves on the Prince William County Soil and Water District Board of Directors.

When it’s built above or below ground, the power line will include several 110-foot tall galvanized steel structures that will support the power lines along the route. Dominion says above-ground lines are more reliable, four to 10 times less expensive than buried lines and have double the life expectancy of a buried line.

Wednesday night’s meeting was the final in a series of public forums held by Dominion over the past year. The utility will take feedback gathered at these sessions and will submit a final report to the SCC in Richmond. That agency will conduct an independent cost analysis and choose which option will be built.

Once the SCC makes a ruling, the new line could take a year and a half to two years to construct.