The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on March 24 unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the proposed undergrounding of a Dominion Energy electricity-transmission line in Tysons.
Dominion officials needed the board’s support in order to submit the project for a State Corporation Commission pilot program regarding the undergrounding of some transmission lines.
The proposed Tysons project would underground a transmission line between the existing Tysons substation and future Spring Hill substation. That section of Tysons is ideal for undergrounding because an overhead transmission line would be visually obtrusive and not consistent with the Tysons comprehensive plan’s vision for high-quality, visually attractive, pedestrian friendly development, county officials said.
An underground line there also would be safer, resolve conflicts with some proposed developments and foster economic-development opportunities in that section of Tysons, they added.
“Undergrounding of utilities better positions Tysons as the county’s ‘urban downtown,’ which also reinforces its position as the region’s ‘economic engine,’” officials said.
The General Assembly in 2018 adopted a state-code provision establishing the pilot program, which aims to evaluate the electric reliability, construction techniques and related costs and timelines associated with underground transmission lines.
The law permitted two qualifying projects to be included in the pilot program. State Corporation Commission officials in July 2018 approved Dominion Energy’s request to include in the program a proposed project to underground a 230-kilowatt transmission line in Haymarket.
The General Assembly this year passed, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on March 4 signed, a bill by Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) that requires the pilot program’s other project to relocate or convert an existing overhead transmission line to an underground one. The Tysons project “was the only one that was an ideal candidate” to meet those criteria, Keam said.
Keam’s bill stipulates that such a project could be approved if the estimated extra cost of undergrounding the line, whether entirely or in part, did not top $40 million or, if it were more expensive, did not exceed 2.5 times the cost of putting the same line overhead. The utility’s ratepayers would have to pay for the project via a rate adjustment clause.