Planning Commission to act on proposed power upgrade

Dominion Energy is seeking approval from Fairfax County to upgrade its existing substation at 8440 Tyco Road in Tysons. 

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will decide March 13 whether to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Dominion Energy’s plans to upgrade its primary electrical substation in Tysons.

The substation, built in 1964 and expanded in 1970, occupies 3.29 acres at 8440 Tyco Road near the Dulles Airport Access Road. Dominion is requesting a special-exception amendment to make the facility more efficient and less cluttered by installing gas-insulated technology, which takes up less space than standard air-insulated substation equipment.

The gas-insulated equipment would replace older gear on the site’s western side and be enclosed in a building. Three 70-foot-tall “backbones” at the site would be replaced with two 75-foot-high ones, which would be placed on lower-level areas of the property to minimize the apparent height increase. Six distribution centers would be removed and existing distribution lines placed underground.

“The overall look will be a little more organized and modern,” said Sheri Akin, a senior planner with McGuireWoods, who represented Dominion at the Planning Commission’s Feb. 27 public hearing.

The site also would feature a 75-foot-tall “static pole” to protect against lightning, she said.

Dominion would screen the facility from the surrounding area using a 12-foot-tall textured precast-concrete wall, which would replace a 7-foot-high chain-link fence topped by a foot of barbed wire. The utility also would provide landscaping including 75 new trees and 77 new shrubs.

An 8-foot-wide sidewalk and street trees also would be installed along Tyco Road, and Dominion would dedicate 0.14 acres of street frontage there.

The wall would have color variations along the side facing Tyco Road, but Tim Incheck, general manager for the nearby Tysons Dulles Plaza development, recommended that the wall’s aesthetic upgrades be installed on all four sides of the facility.

Dominion is seeking the upgrades to help meet future electrical demand in rapidly redeveloping Tysons, relieve the load imposed on surrounding substations and avoid violating reliability standards imposed by the National American Electric Reliability Corp.

In addition, the upgraded station will serve as the end point for the future underground-transmission line between Idylwood Road and Tysons.

Substations connect with high-voltage transmission lines and step down that electricity using transformers so it can be used by residential and commercial customers.

In addition to upgrading the Tyco Road facility, Dominion also plans to build a new substation south of the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons to further serve that urban center.

Planning Commission member Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence District) moved to defer the commission’s decision on the Tyco Road facility until March 13 so some development conditions could be reviewed and lingering questions answered, including ones about easements needed for the planned Greensboro Drive ramp to the Dulles Airport Access Road.

“This station is critical to the future of Tysons,” Niedzielski-Eichner said.

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