Virginia SCC hearing examiner recommends approval of Dominion Virginia Power’s 500-kV rebuild project

A Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing examiner on Nov. 9 recommended that the SCC grant Virginia Electric and Power’s d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power’s application to build certain proposed transmission line and station improvements.

As noted in Hearing Examiner Howard Anderson Jr.’s report filed with the SCC, Dominion Virginia Power in March filed with the SCC its application for approval and certification for transmission facilities in connection with the proposed rebuild of the Cunningham-Dooms Line #534. According to the application, the company proposes to rebuild, entirely within its existing right of way (ROW), about 32.7 miles of its existing 500-kV Cunningham-Dooms Line #534 transmission line in Fluvanna, Albemarle and Augusta counties located between the company’s existing Cunningham switching station in Fluvanna County and its existing Dooms substation in Augusta County.

Anderson said that he finds that the proposed rebuild project:

  • Is justified by the public convenience and necessity
  • Will maximize the use of existing rights of way (ROWs)
  • Is essential to support ongoing economic development and overall system reliability
  • Is not suitable for underground construction
  • Reasonably mitigates – with its use of existing ROWs and tower design – the project’s overall impact and generally improves the aesthetics of the proposed rebuild project

He also said that he finds that the SCC should adopt the recommendations contained in a state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) report as conditions of approval. Among other things, the DEQ recommended that the company conduct an on-site delineation of all wetlands and stream crossings within the project area with verification by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

According to the company, the proposed project is needed to assure the company can continue to provide reliable electric service consistent with mandatory NERC Reliability Standards for transmission facilities and the company’s transmission planning criteria. The company also noted that Line #534 provides service to the company’s transmission system in the western and central regions of Virginia, and is a critical component of the electric transmission grid that serves Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and beyond.

The company said that Line #534 was built with first generation 500-kV technology, and after 50 years of continuous operation, is approaching the end of its useful life.

Anderson also noted that according to the company, for the proposed rebuild project, it would remove the existing 500-kV steel lattice towers of Line #534 and replace them with new 500-kV single circuit galvanized steel lattice towers, as well as remove and replace existing 2-2049.5 bundled all aluminum alloy conductors with three triple-bundled 1351.5 aluminum conductor steel reinforces phases conductors.

According to the company, the proposed rebuild project’s total estimated cost is about $59m (in 2015 dollars), and the project is scheduled for completion by summer 2019.

As noted in an SCC staff report, of the estimated $59m, about $58.5m is for line work, while $245,000 is designated for work at the Cunningham station and $246,000 is designated for work at the Dooms substation.

As a PJM Interconnection baseline reliability 500-kV project, the cost would be socialized throughout the PJM system, according to a methodology approved by PJM in December 2015. Anderson added that under that methodology, the Dominion Zone would be allocated 42.12% of the rebuild project cost, or about $24.6m for line work and about $206,388 for station work. The cost to be allocated to Virginia consumers would be about $24.8m, while the other utilities of PJM that would benefit from the rebuild project would be apportioned the remaining cost, Anderson said.

He also noted that the SCC received 25 public comments pertaining to the case and they generally addressed three primary topics, including a concern that the design – both the height of the towers and the materials chosen, for instance – would impact the local view shed and affect tourism, agriculture and the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan.

The company, in supplemental testimony, said that while technically and commercially feasible, it does not support the accelerated dulled finish process on the tower structures prior to construction as an appropriate engineering alternative for several reasons, including that the chemically dulled finish would add an incremental cost of about $266,000 to the rebuild project. The company also noted that final tower heights of specific towers would be determined in the final engineering process and typically are not available until final design, which occurs after the SCC issues its final order in the proceeding.

Anderson also noted that the company said that it considered the Comprehensive Plan when planning, routing, and designing the rebuild project as well as the comprehensive plans for Augusta and Fluvanna counties to evaluate the potential effect that the rebuild project would have on future development. The company noted that the rebuild project would be entirely within existing ROW and would replace an existing transmission line.

Among other things, Anderson said that he finds that requiring the company to use a chemical dulling process on the newly installed towers is unwarranted, adding that while the new towers will be bright and reflective at first, a dull finish will naturally be acquired in a few years.

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

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.