Northern Virginia: Community And Business Groups Challenge Loudoun Data Center Emissions Permit

Apr 07, 2023 | Posted by Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji

This spring and summer, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is mulling over a proposal enabling data facilities in Loudoun County to draw power more routinely from on-site disaster diesel generators. The proposal aims to alleviate pressure on the transmission system, which transports high-voltage electricity over long distances from power facilities to end consumers and local distribution systems. Last week, DEQ's regional office in Woodbridge was accepting public comments on the matter. The Data Center Coalition, a trade association, has asked DEQ to withdraw the proposed variance. President of DCC Josh Levi wrote in a letter that there are significant outstanding technical, federal legislative, and operational issues with this variance. Due to these concerns, no DCC member has expressed interest in utilizing the variance. 

According to a report from Loudoun County, Dominion Energy started notifying businesses in July 2022 that prospective data facilities in eastern Loudoun County will not receive power supply because of severe transmission constraints. Some new centers are now getting power, but Dominion anticipates a limited growth of its regional services until transmission projects are completed in January 2026. During this time period, the proposed deviation would permit data center backup generators to operate temporarily during a "Maximum Generation Emergency/Load Management Alert." Nonattainment regions do not satisfy the Environmental Protection Agency's air quality standards. The last ozone standard was established in 2015. While data centers have become commonplace throughout much of Northern Virginia, Chesterfield County is attempting to join the trend. In 2019, it announced that its data center tax rate of 24 cents was the lowest in the state; other municipalities have since matched it.