Data Center Alley

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is considering lifting restrictions on how data centers use their backup diesel generators at they continue to face shortages in Dominion Energy’s distribution.

Dominion warned data centers in summer 2022 that it may not be able to supply power to new data centers, limited not by the amount of electricity the utility could generate but its ability to get that electricity to parts of Loudoun. Now, the DEQ is considering lifting limits on running those generators, which normally are only started for regular testing, from March to July in Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties in case of stress on the electrical grid.

Under the proposed DEQ order, data centers would be permitted to run those generators when PJM Interconnection, the company that coordinates power transmission in Virginia, announces at “Maximum Generation Emergency/Load Management Alert.” Those alerts are issued in advance of possible capacity problems in the electrical grid to give utilities time to prepare and take action to meet the demand.

Under the proposed order, data center operators would be required to notify the state within three hours of both starting and turning off their generators, and to “provide to the department as soon as practicable a calculation of the emissions of air pollutants” from those generators. The order would expire June 30.

On an earnings call Aug. 8, Dominion CEO Bob Blue said data centers account for about 20% of the company’s sales in Virginia, and that since 2019 the company had connected close to 70 data centers with more than 2.6 gigawatts of capacity in Northern Virginia. He said in 2027 alone, the demand from data centers is expected to grow by another 2.6 gigawatts.

The state is collecting public comment on the proposed order now through March 14, by fax, email or mail. Send comments to Karen G. Sabasteanski by fax at 804-698-4178, by email to, or by mail to Karen G. Sabasteanski, Office of Air Data Analysis and Planning, Department of Environmental Quality, PO Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218.

There is also a public hearing planned at 11 a.m. on Feb. 27, at the DEQ’s Northern Regional office, 13901 Crown Ct. in Woodbridge.

For more information and to find the proposed order, go to

Renss Greene is the deputy editor of Loudoun Now. He primarily covers Loudoun County government.

(6) comments


Data Centers need to be built way far out from residential areas. Their huge concrete structures are absurd next to our housing developments in Ashburn. What's Next?? The data center owners will want to place bill boards along their mile long huge walls and advertise products. The politicians in our area and State really sold us down the road by allowing the data centers to go up in our residential areas. And, contrary to popular social media influencing, data centers create no where near the number of jobs per cubic foot of space they occupy that you typically hear broadcast by politicians. After a data center is built, it can run on about 30 people. That is no where near the "huge" number of jobs touted by our sincere politicians.


It's criminal that DEQ is holding public hearings to allow citizens to affect whether or not data centers can run their diesel back up power generators continuously for months. DEQ is Virginia's environmental watchdog, and not an environmental poll taker. It's ridiculous that Virginia would even consider allowing these huge data centers to pollute our neighborhoods. Ashburn is slowly becoming exactly it's namesake: "Ash"-"Burn", as in Diesel Ashes Burning if we don't put a stop to all of these data centers being built directly next to our expensive home developments. After many more data centers are built, no one will want to live in Ash-Burn, and the home values will plummet.


Meanwhile, Dominion is shoving "smart" meters down your throats so they can shut off your power when the VIP customers (data centers) need more juice.

That's right, that shiny new meter on your residence WILL be weaponized against you. Just like it has everywhere else they've been deployed.

Opt out. Send a message to Dominion that they need to get their business affairs in order.


I'm surprised diesel generators are still being used, propane generators are more efficient. Something to consider for future data centers.


The bad idea of data centers is just getting worse. Too bad our politicians love them so. They'd rather keep their job than do what's right for county citizens. They prefer to let the data centers tax revenue insulate them from having to raise taxes even a few pennies. In return we get these horrible monster buildings that are not yet done making us miserable...


More special exceptions, just look at the rezoning special exceptions in Loudoun comprehensive plan my botay!

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