Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) staff on Feb. 7 recommended that Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power evaluate the cost, reliability, and environmental implications of variations to an option that has been presented in the proceeding related to the company’s proposed rebuild of a segment of a 115-kV line.
As noted in staff’s report filed with the SCC, the company in late February 2016 filed its application for approval and issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) authorizing it to rebuild and operate a segment of the 115-kV Line #65 in Lancaster and Middlesex counties, and across the Rappahannock River.
That application was filed after an injunction was ordered by the SCC in Case PUE-2015-00109, in which the SCC ruled that the company must obtain a CPCN before undertaking planned construction to rebuild that portion of Line #65.
Staff added that the company proposes to rebuild an approximately 2.2-mile segment of the 115-kV Harmony Village-Northern Neck Line #65 as an overhead 115-kV transmission line, with that segment including: a less than 0.1-mile section in Lancaster County; a 1.9-mile section in the Rappahannock River; and an approximately 0.3-mile section in Middlesex County. The company also proposes to build a fender system on both sides of, and parallel to, the navigational channel in the river.
Staff added that according to the company, there is an immediate need for the project to assure that Dominion Virginia Power can continue to provide reliable electrical service.
Notices of participation were filed by Lancaster County and William C. Barnhardt, among others, staff said. Barnhardt in June 2016 filed a motion to require the company to supplement the application with additional alternatives, and by a hearing examiner’s ruling entered in July 2016, that motion was granted, requiring the company to study two alternatives proposed by Barnhardt.
Staff noted that the existing Harmony Village-Northern Neck Line #65 is part of the company’s 230-kV and 115-kV network supporting the Northern Neck area and directly serving customers from the White Stone, Ocran, and Lancaster substations. The river crossing segment of the line was built in 1962 and, according to Dominion Virginia Power, is nearing the end of its useful life, staff said.
Staff noted that for the land portion of the project, the company proposes to replace structures along an existing right of way (ROW) in Lancaster and Middlesex counties – in Lancaster County, the company would remove one existing wooden three-pole structure and replace it with a galvanized steel three-pole structure, while in Middlesex County, the company would remove four existing wooden monopole structures and replace them with one double deadend galvanized steel monopole and two weathering steel monopoles.
The existing water crossing portion of the project consists of seven wooden H-frame structures in the water and 14 davit arms attached to the Norris Bridge, staff said. The company proposes to replace the existing in-water structures and bridge attachments with 10 galvanized steel H-frame structures in the water, staff said, adding that in total, the project would add an additional three structures in the water and remove all of the bridge attachments.
The centerline of the proposed in-water structures would be about 100 feet east of the Norris Bridge, and the project would be built on new ROW permitted by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), staff said.
The proposed route begins east of Mary Ball Road in Middlesex County and heads northeast for about 0.3 miles. Staff added that the route crosses the Rappahannock River for about 1.9 miles using an 80-foot-wide VMRC-permitted ROW, which is centered about 100 feet east of Norris Bridge. The ROW expands to 200 feet in the center of the river in order to accommodate the fender system. Upon reaching the northern bank of the river in Lancaster County, the route travels less than 0.1 miles in a northeasterly direction, ending at an existing structure, staff added.
According to the company, project construction would take about 14 months, including some time-of-year restrictions. At the time of its application, staff added, the company anticipated the proposed line could be in service by December 2017. However, a “Nationwide Permit #12,” obtained in 2015, requires the company to obtain new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval should the company not begin work by March 18, 2017.
Staff also said that the project’s estimated cost, in 2016 dollars, is $26.2m; there is no station work associated with the project.
The proposed project resolves the demonstrated need, has legislative authorization and permits necessary to build, and is the least costly option when compared to the other alternatives designed at a capacity similar to the company’s project, staff said.
Due to the relatively small incremental cost and similar environmental impacts, a “230-kV Alternative” is a viable and comparable overhead option, staff said. The “230 kV Overhead Alternative” would rebuild a portion of the existing Line #65 along the same approximately 2.2-mile route as the 115-kV proposed project, but the transmission line would be designed to be capable of operating at 230 kV, staff said. Accordingly, the higher voltage lines would require structures taller than the 115-kV proposed project, staff said, adding that the estimated cost for this alternative is $26.3m.
However, staff said, because the need to rebuild the river crossing section of Line #65 is not capacity driven, a project with a lower capacity that more closely matches the existing sections of Line #65 can also resolve the reliability needs identified by the company.
As such, staff said that it agrees with the respondents in the proceeding that variations to “Barnhardt Option 2” that more accurately meet the capacity needs attendant to the project warrant further exploration.
To that end, staff said that it recommends that the company evaluate the cost, reliability, and environmental implications of the “Variations of Barnhardt Option 2.” If any of those variations can be built in a reliable manner and the costs of such construction are comparable to the company’s proposed project, then staff said it believes that such options are reasonable alternatives.
Barnhardt Option 2 – which would be about 2.4 miles long – involves replacing and relocating a section of Line #65 that parallels Route 3 and crosses the Rappahannock River with new submarine insulated cables trenched into the bottom of the river, staff said.
The route would generally follow along the centerline of the proposed route on land, using about 0.4 miles of land in Lancaster and Middlesex counties, and about two miles under the river. That alternative would also require two transition stations, one on each side of the river crossing, to connect new underground cable to the existing overhead 115-kV transmission line, staff added.
Barnhardt Option 2 would require a typical 75-foot-wide permanent ROW for the on-land portions of the line within Lancaster and Middlesex counties. The route may slightly shift or the ROW may be reduced to avoid encroachment on residential properties, but even after implementing such mitigation, the company would be unable to avoid encroachment on one residential property. As such, staff added, the company would need to either negotiate for an underground easement or, if unsuccessful, proceed to condemnation.
For the approximately two-mile segment of the line installed within the river, the ROW for a seven-cable configuration would vary in width, but would typically be 780-feet-wide for most of the length and narrow to 75 feet as it reaches the shorelines, staff said.
The estimated total time to complete the alternative is about 30 months, staff said, adding that the estimated cost for this alternative is about $102.1m – $92.3m for the underground transmission line, and $9.8m for the transition stations and substation work.
Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE:D).