Virginia SCC hearing examiner recommends approval of 500-kV line, other facilities

The new approximately 8-mile, 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line and other facilities proposed by Virginia Electric Power and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power reasonably minimize the adverse impacts on scenic assets, historic districts and the environment, according to a senior hearing examiner with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC).

Alexander Skirpan Jr., recommended in his Aug. 2 report that the SCC enter an order granting the application to build the proposed transmission facilities and amend the company’s current certificates of public convenience and necessity to authorize construction of the proposed transmission facilities.

Besides the 500-kV line, which begins at the Surry switching station in Surry County, crossing the James River, to a new Skiffes Creek switching station in James City County, the company also proposed the approximately 20.2-mile, 230-kV Skiffes Creek-Whealton line beginning at the Skiffes Creek switching station through York County and the city of Newport News, to the existing Whealton substation in the city of Hampton, as well as the 500-kV – 230-kV – 115-kV Skiffes Creek switching station.

Skirpan said Dominion Virginia Power established the need for the proposed project.

The company noted in its application that electric power flow studies conducted with PJM Interconnection projected that by the summer of 2015, the company’s transmission facilities will violate mandatory NERC reliability standards and that the failure to address those projected violations could lead to loss of service and potential damage to the company’s electric facilities in certain load areas such as Charles City County.

The estimated cost of the proposed project, using the company’s recommended route for the Surry-Skiffes Creek line, is about $150.6m, including about $56.3m for the Surry-Skiffes Creek line, about $46.4m for the Skiffes Creek-Whealton line and about $47.9m for the Skiffes Creek switching station and other substation work.

Skirpan also noted that regardless of the route chosen, the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line will cross BASF Corporation’s property. BASF has proposed several mitigation measures, most of which have been agreed to by Dominion Virginia Power.

BASF requested that galvanized steel monopoles be used to cross BASF property rather than the lattice towers proposed by Dominion Virginia Power.

A company witness testified that he agreed that monopoles could be used on the BASF property and that they could be placed in the existing 130-foot right-of-way (ROW) but they would have an average height of 155 feet as opposed to 128 feet for the towers. He also testified that the monopoles would be more costly.

“Based on the heavy impacts on the BASF property, regardless of the route variation, I find that BASF’s request for monopoles should be granted,” Skirpan added.

BASF also requested that the SCC reflect certain construction practices that were agreed to during the proceeding by BASF and Dominion Virginia Power, such as that Dominion will use existing roadways for access to construction locations, unless use of such roadways is not practical.

“Based on the agreement between BASF and Dominion Virginia Power, I find that the … construction practices should be included as a condition to the certificate,” Skirpan added.

On ROW maintenance policies, BASF requested that the SCC’s certificate reflect certain ROW maintenance policies that BASF maintained are adjusted to reflect concerns raised by the company, including that an erosion plan should be developed and implemented in areas near rivers or creeks, and near areas with steep slopes.

It appears that there is agreement between BASF and Dominion Virginia Power on those policies, he said, adding that the SCC should include those ROW policies for the BASF property as a condition to the certificate.

Among other findings, Skirpan noted that the proposed project will resolve all of the 2015 NERC reliability violations and with a minor upgrade continues to resolve identified NERC reliability violations through 2021.

Also, overall, the proposed project will reasonably minimize the adverse impacts on the scenic assets, historic districts and environments. Furthermore, the proposed project is the least cost viable alternative for addressing the identified NERC reliability violations, can be built in a timely manner and is the best alternative in the case.

He also found that additional generation, and combinations of new 230-kV transmission alternatives with additional generation resolve the identified NERC reliability violations, but at a higher price and at a greater risk of failing to be completed by the date needed.

Dominion Virginia Power had compared the proposed project to several 230-kV transmission options including an overhead Surry-Skiffes Creek double circuit 230-kV line following the original proposed route and an underground Surry-Skiffes Creek 230-kV line.

The company contended that each of the alternatives failed to resolve all of the NERC reliability violations through 2021, with only the overhead Chickahominy-Skiffes Creek double circuit 230-kV line resolving the NERC reliability deficiencies in 2015 and 2016.

Skirpan also noted that Dominion Virginia Power determined that it would take two new generating units in the North Hampton Roads Load Area with a combined 620 MW capacity, with the size of the smallest unit of 295 MW, to resolve all of the NERC reliability violations for 2015. To resolve all of the NERC reliability violations for 2021, the company said it would take an additional 618 MW of generation.

He added that Dominion Virginia Power argued against a stand-alone generation option based on the higher costs associated and because construction cannot be completed by the June 2015 need date.

Skirpan further said that any certificate issued by the SCC should be conditioned to direct the company to follow certain construction practices including that construction traffic and equipment should be minimized so that only the vehicles and machinery necessary are used.

Additionally, any certificate issued should be conditioned to direct the company to follow certain ROW maintenance policies, such as that Dominion Virginia Power should conduct a vegetation inventory to identify compatible species that can be retained in the ROW. The inventory may be limited to types of species, rather than number of plants present.

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.