Dominion works on transmission fixes beyond Yorktown coal unit retirements

Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power told the Virginia State Corporation Commission in a June 14 update that it has plans to temporarily work around issues if transmission projects aren’t built by the time the coal-fired Yorktown Units 1 and 2 need to be retired in April 2017.

The update was regarding the status of the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line, Skiffes Creek Switching Station, Skiffes Creek-Whealton Line, and additional transmission facilities (collectively called the “Certificated Project”). In November 2013, the commission approved and certificated the construction and operation by Dominion Virginia Power of the electric transmission lines and related facilities. Those orders provide that this case is to remain open until the proposed facilities are in service.

Dominion noted that the inability to begin construction for the past three years due to various permitting and legal issues that have made it impossible for the proposed facilities to be completed and in service by Dec. 31, 2015, as provided in the commission’s February 2014 order amending the project certificates.

As permitted by federal environmental regulations, the company obtained from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality a one-year extension of the April 16, 2015, deadline for Yorktown Units 1 and 2 to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s MATS regulation that will be achieved by retiring the units, which drove the original June 1, 2015, need date for the new transmission facilities.

The utility noted: “On October 15, 2015, the Company submitted a Petition seeking from the EPA an administrative order under EPA’s Adminisfrative Order Policy for the MATS rule, which, if granted, would provide an additional one-year waiver of non-compliance with the regulations that drive those retirements and further extend the need date for the Certificated Project to June 1, 2017. On December 2, 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (‘FERC’) issued Comments on the Company’s request to EPA, stating that Yorktown Unit Nos. 1 and 2 ‘are needed during the administrative order period, as requested by Dominion, to maintain electric reliability and to avoid possible NERC Reliability Standard violations.’ On April 16, 2016, the EPA issued an Administrative Order under Section 113(g) of the Clean Air Act (‘CAA’) authorizing the Company to operate the Yorktown coal-fired units (Units 1 and 2) through April 15, 2017 under certain limitations consistent with the MATS rule.

“In order to ensure reliability for the Peninsula while the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line is being constructed in anticipation of the Yorktown Unit 1 and 2 retirements, the Company is conducting a rigorous inspection and maintenance program (‘Inspection Program’). The focus of the Inspection Program is transmission lines and stations for assets that directly serve the Peninsula. This includes, but is not limited to, the lines and stations from Chickahominy east to Newport News, as well as lines from Surry and Chuckatuck that feed into the southern end of the Peninsula. The Inspection Program focuses on the human performance factor that will be emphasized consistently over the work period to ensure the Electric Transmission and Station workforce involved in supporting the assets on the Peninsula are cognizant of the ongoing construction. The Inspection Program will also consist of a complete evaluation of all abnormal equipment logs that require equipment maintenance or replacement in order to ensure that all equipment is in-service, and infrared reviews of stations and transmission lines prior to and during long critical outages to identify any weak links in the system that need attention to prevent unplanned outage events. More frequent aerial and foot patrols of transmission lines and stations will also be incorporated into the Inspection Program. Lastly, the outages required to address any outstanding equipment issues will be scheduled around the necessary planned outages to support the construction of the Certificated Project to limit the overall system exposure.

“If the Certificated Project is not in-service by the time that Yorktown Units 1 and 2 must retire to be in compliance with effective environmental regulations, then the plan for maintaining system reliability for the Peninsula will include careful planning of transmission outages and minimum work on assets on the Peninsula while the planned outages to support the construction of the Certificated Project outages are underway. Under some unplanned event scenarios, the reliability plan must include shedding of load in the amounts necessary to reduce stress on the system below critical demand levels. The shedding of load could occur in some instances at system load levels well below peak demand levels, on the order of 16,000 MW or higher. The exact system load level, load shed amounts and locations will be dependent on the circumstances that exist on the system at the time.”

Utility parent Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) a couple of years ago wanted to retire the coal units at its Chesapeake and Yorktown plants by the end of 2014 due to MATS. The Chesapeake coal units were retired at that point, but the Yorktown units were spared due to the PJM Interconnection need for them for grid reliability purposes. 

The extra life for the Yorktown units is tied into the contentious approval process that Dominion is going through for its planned Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line. That line, which would cross the James River between Surry County and James City County, has stirred opposition from historic preservation and environmental groups. They say the power line would mar a historic view of the James River as the first settlers of Jamestown saw it and would interfere with wildlife around the river.

Yorktown’s three generating units are: Unit 1, coal, 159 MW; Unit 2, coal, 164 MW; and Unit 3, oil, 818 MW. The station is located on the York River near the Yorktown battlefield, site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Other nearby historic attractions include Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Jamestown Festival Park, which re-creates early colonial life.

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.