Dominion Virginia Power seeks approval for 500-kV line by Oct. 1

Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power has asked the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) by Oct. 1 for the 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line, 230-kV Skiffes Creek-Whealton line and the 500-kV – 230-kV – 115-kV Skiffes Creek switching station.

The company plans to build the new approximately 8-mile, 500-kV line from the existing Surry switching station in Surry County, Va., to a new 500-kV – 230-kV – 115-kV Skiffes Creek switching station in James City County, Va., according to the company’s May 24 post-hearing brief filed with the SCC.

The company is also seeking approval to build the proposed Skiffes Station on a 51-acre parcel of land that the company has owned since the 1970s; approximately 20.2 miles of new 230-kV transmission line from the proposed Skiffes station through James City and York counties in Virginia and the cities of Hampton and Newport News in Virginia to the company’s existing Whealton substation located in Hampton; and additional facilities at the existing Surry station and Whealton substation.

Each facility is electrically essential to the project in order to solve projected violations of mandatory federal reliability standards established by NERC.

No party to the proceeding disagreed that the North Hampton Roads Load area is generation deficient, the company added.

In light of that deficiency, the company’s planned retirements of Yorktown Power Station Units 1 and 2 by the end of 2014 accelerate the need for a solution to the projected NERC reliability violations that would occur in the region if a solution is not in operation by June 1, 2015, the company said, noting that the units’ retirements are being driven by mandatory U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that take effect in April 2015.

The company has done comprehensive routing analyses of its preferred as well as alternate routes. Routing efforts initially focused on a Chickahominy substation origin point, but based on overall impacts, as well as estimated costs and construction times, the company chose the “updated proposed route” as the route that reasonably minimizes adverse impacts as compared to the Chickahominy Alternative.

The project with the updated proposed route takes a relatively direct path from a 500-kV electrical source, the Surry power station in Surry County to the necessary destination point, the proposed Skiffes station. The route is eight miles long, as compared to the 37.89 miles the Chickahominy Alternative would traverse, the company added.

“The project with the updated proposed route is the most direct route and can be completed by June 1, 2015, unlike the 230-kV and generation alternatives analyzed” the company said.

Also, there are only 160 residences within 500 feet of the updated proposed route, compared to 1,129 residences within the same distance for the Chickahominy Alternative.

The company also said that the updated proposed route, compared to the alternate route, requires less forest cleared, will have less wetlands impact and requires less conversion of forested wetlands to scrub shrub community.

The project with the 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek line has less environmental impact than any underground construction alternative, the company said, noting that underground construction requires installation of piles and trenching.

Also, on a permanent basis, a double-circuit underground alternative would require two trenches, each about six feet wide and five feet deep, to be excavated for the entire length of the circuit on land resulting in 11,733 cubic yards of soil excavation per mile.

The company also said that modern structures presenting visual intrusions already exist in the area and are visible throughout the area concerned, including the Busch Gardens amusement park.

The cost of the project using the updated proposed route totals $155.4m to resolve the reliability violations identified in 2015, and $172.7m to meet the need identified in 2021. In comparison, the alternatives range from $213.2m to $633m to resolve the reliability violations in 2015, and range from $230.5m to $1.345bn to meet the need identified in 2021.

The Chickahominy Alternative costs $57.8m more than the updated proposed route, the company added.

Opposition from James City County

In their May 24 post-hearing brief, James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust and the James River Association said that the project, as presented, should not be approved because of the severe and extensive adverse impacts it would cause the historic, scenic and environmental assets of the state by the overhead crossing of the James River.

“The only way those impacts can reasonably be mitigated and minimized – which is mandated by statute – is by undergrounding a replacement line across the James, or by moving the project elsewhere,” the entities said.

They also said there are reasonable, feasible alternatives available to Dominion to address its needs, including a 230-kV hybrid alternative that is undergrounded across the James, or an overhead 230-kV alternative at another location downstream on existing rights of way adjacent to the James River Bridge and existing transmission lines.

Additionally, there is no need for the project without its key transforming facility, the Skiffes Creek 500/230/115-kV switching station, which requires a special use permit from James City County. Consequently, any approval should be conditioned on receipt by Dominion of such permit for the switching station.

“The county, Save the James and the James River Association ask the commission to protect them, the citizens of the commonwealth and their historic and scenic treasures from the consequences of a proposed transmission line that are unreasonable and unnecessary,” the entities said.

Because of James City County’s opposition to an overhead James River crossing by a 500-kV transmission line, its ability to use its special use permit process for Skiffes station as a means to block a final order by the SCC granting a CPCN for the project is a threat to the SCC’s jurisdiction, the company said in its brief.

Such an action by James City County would subject the project to unquantifiable delays such that the project could not be built by June 1, 2015, putting the reliability of the North Hampton Roads Load Area electrical system at risk for cascading outages and load shedding.

The entities’ preference is to have the facility built underground at more than five times the expense to customers, the company said, adding that an underground facility at 230 kV cannot be built in time to meet the reliability need, the company added.

Alternatively, James City County wants to have the overhead river crossing moved to another county, and their rationale is based upon the historic uniqueness of the 23 miles that comprise the Historic Triangle and preservation of an “almost” pristine viewshed several miles away at the proposed James River crossing.

The company added that the entire routing process has been done in a way to preserve and recognize the area concerned through reasonably minimizing adverse impacts to scenic assets, historic districts and the environment.

Between the company, PJM Interconnection, the analyses ordered by a hearing examiner’s Jan. 30 ruling, among others, the need for the line and the project’s ability to solve the need better and more cost-effectively was studied and verified on five separate occasions from 2011 until March, the company said.

Through the additional analyses, the company tested whether various 230-kV solutions alone would solve the need, underground at the “James River Crossing Variation 3” location and overhead at a different James River crossing location outside of James City County.

The results show that even if the alternatives could be built by the June 2015 need date, which they cannot, they would require $57.8m to $477.6m in additional expense in 2015 and $57.8m to $1,172.3m in additional expense in 2021 in order to resolve the identified NERC reliability violations in those years, the company added.

“[N]o other alternative can compete with the project whether it is judged by its ability to fully resolve the identified NERC reliability violations in 2015, its cost, or its ability to be built in time,” the company said.

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE:D).

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2807 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 13 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at corinar@pennwell.com.