Coal retirements, nuclear option figure in Dominion’s latest IRP

Retirements of coal-fired generation at the Yorktown and Chesapeake power plants are among the many elements of a new integrated resource plan (IRP) that Dominion Virginia Power filed Aug. 31 at the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC).

The SCC is still considering the utility’s September 2011 IRP filing. Dominion Virginia Power, a unit of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), noted in the Aug. 31 IRP that the North Carolina Utilities Commission in May approved a 2011 update to the IRP filed there. The 2012 plan was prepared for the Dominion Load Serving Entity and represents the company’s service territories in North Carolina and Virginia, which are part of the PJM Interconnection Regional Transmission Organization.

Dominion said that while the Preferred Plan in the Aug. 31 IRP is, under current planning assumptions, higher cost than the Base Plan, the Preferred Plan will provide fuel-price stability for customers over the long-term by reducing an over-reliance on any one fuel source or generation technology.

The Preferred Plan also provides the most reliable baseload, emissions-free energy over the long-term by incorporating an additional nuclear unit at the company’s North Anna Power Station, as well as 248 MW (nameplate) of onshore wind, 10 MW (nameplate) of brownfield solar and 24 MW (nameplate) of solar capacity (30 MW direct current) from the Community Solar Power Program. Also included is a renewable 15 MW municipal solid waste (MSW) non-utility generator (NUG) in 2014.

“Nuclear power, despite its high upfront capital costs, has very low long-term operating costs, no air emissions, and a long track record of delivering reliable baseload energy,” the IRP said. “The Company’s customers today benefit substantially from the Company’s historic investments in four nuclear units.”

The Preferred Plan includes:

Demand-Side Resources:

  • approved DSM programs reaching approximately 206 MW by 2027;
  • extended and future DSM programs reaching approximately 615 MW by 2027.

Changes to Existing Resources:

  • the repowering of Bremo Power Station Units 3 and 4 totaling 227 MW from coal to natural gas by 2014;
  • three ongoing coal to biomass conversions at the Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton units, totaling 153 MW.

Planned Generation Under Construction:

  • Warren County Power Station, representing 1,337 MW of natural gas-fired combined-cycle capacity;

Planned Generation Under Development:

  • Brunswick County Power Station (natural gas) and North Anna Unit 3 (nuclear) which total approximately 2,828 MW;
  • the Community Solar Power Program, which includes up to 7 MW of firm capacity (24 MW nameplate, 30 MW DC) of company-owned photovoltaic solar distributed generation;

Potential Generation:

  • renewable resources of onshore wind providing 32 MW (248 MW nameplate) by 2024, and 4 MW (10 MW nameplate) brownfield solar by 2020;
  • a mix of potential conventional generation resources including combined-cycle (CC) and combustion turbine (CT) plants totaling approximately 2,175 MW;

NUG and Market Purchases:

  • NUG capacity and energy under contract including a new renewable MSW NUG of 15 MW in 2014; and
  • PJM market purchases which average approximately 316 MW of capacity and 12% of energy annually.

New EPA regulations weigh against ‘at risk’ coal

In light of changing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, various alternatives were analyzed with respect to the company’s “at risk” coal and oil-fired units. Coal-fired units that are environmentally controlled will continue to operate with relatively small additional expenses. There are three compliance options for at risk units: retrofitting with additional environmental control reduction equipment, repowering to biomass or natural gas, or retiring the unit.

The impact of at risk units on the 2012 plan is as follows:


  • 1,604 MW of heavy oil-fired generation installed with new selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) controls at Possum Point Unit 5 and Yorktown Unit 3 by 2015 and 2018, respectively;


  • 153 MW of coal-fired generation to biomass by the end of 2013 at Altavista, Southampton, and Hopewell;
  • 227 MW of coal-fired generation repowered from coal to natural gas by 2014 at Bremo Units 3 and 4;


  • 918 MW of coal-fired generation retired by 2015 at Chesapeake Energy Center Units 1-4 and Yorktown Units 1 and 2.

The company has identified three onshore wind projects that have a potential to generate a total of 248 MW (nameplate), with no direct fuel costs. The significant potential for offshore wind adjacent to the company’s service territory is a major focus of an internal working group’s current efforts.

While the Planning Period is a 15-year outlook, the company said it is mindful of the scheduled license expirations of the company-owned nuclear units; Surry Unit 1 (838 MW) and Surry Unit 2 (838 MW) in 2032 and 2033, respectively, and North Anna Unit 1 (833 MW) and North Anna Unit 2 (833 MW) in 2038 and 2040, respectively. While this may seem to be in the distant future, the expirations begin to occur within the Study Period and demands attention in long-term planning, the company said.

Dominion says it wants new nuclear to mix in with gas

The Preferred Plan (Plan B) is, under current planning assumptions, higher cost than the Base Plan (Plan A), which for new build generation relies exclusively on natural gas-fired generation over the Study Period. “While natural gas is a critical component of the Company’s fuel mix, nuclear, and renewable generation are also central components to achieve the Company’s objective of long-term fuel diversity and therefore price stability and system reliability in an environmentally responsible manner,” Dominion argued.

While the majority of the company’s coal generators are equipped with scrubbers and NOx controls, the remaining small coal units are without sufficient emission compliance controls to comply with effective and anticipated regulatory requirements. The company’s coal-fired units at the Chesterfield, Mt. Storm, Clover, Mecklenburg and Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center (VCHEC) facilities all have flue gas desulfurization environmental controls to control SO2 emissions. The Chesterfield Units 4, 5 and 6, Mt. Storm, Clover, Chesapeake Units 3 and 4, and VCHEC coal-fired generation units also have selective catalytic reduction (SCR) or SNCR technology to control NOx emissions.

There are several units in the 2012 plan that will be retired by 2015. These units include the Chesapeake Energy Center Unit 1 (111 MW), Unit 2 (111 MW), Unit 3 (156 MW) and Unit 4 (217 MW), and Yorktown Unit 1 (159 MW) and Unit 2 (164 MW).

In addition to these retirements, the coal unit at North Branch Power Station, located in Bayard, W.Va., which is currently in cold reserve status, is planned to be retired by the end of 2012. This retirement is the result of a mitigation agreement between the National Park Service and the company, and is incorporated into the Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit for the gas-fired Warren County Power Station. The agreement requires the retirement of North Branch Power Station simultaneously with Warren County Power Station firing.

The company said it is also evaluating future blackstart resources based on asset retirements that are anticipated over the next several years. Blackstart generators are generating units that are able to start without an outside electrical supply or are able to remain operating at reduced levels when automatically disconnected from the grid.

Warren County gas plant, biomass conversions in progress

To meet expected load growth, the company filed for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) with the SCC to construct and operate the Warren County Power Station, a 1,337 MW natural gas-powered electric generation facility located in Warren County, Va. On Feb. 2, the SCC granted the CPCN and on Feb. 27 the company officially began construction of the station. The station is targeted for commercial operation by 2015.

The SCC granted approval on March 16 to convert Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton from coal to biomass. The three similar power stations went into operation in 1992. Conversion is expected to result in overall reductions of SO2, NOx and particulates. The conversions are projected to increase the capacity factors of these units, and provide economical baseload energy and environmental benefits over the next 25 years. The repowered stations are expected to be fully operational as biomass units by the end of 2013.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.