The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), in an April 6 interim order, said that in order to implement the $55m “Railroad Route” for a 230-kV transmission project, Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Virginia Power) is to request Prince William County, Va., to take the actions necessary to remove any legal constraints blocking construction of that route.
As noted in the interim order, Dominion Virginia Power in November 2015 filed an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the proposed Haymarket 230-kV double circuit transmission line and 230-34.5-kV Haymarket substation.
The company proposed to build the new substation in Prince William County; convert its existing 115-kV Gainesville-Loudoun Line #124 in Prince William and Loudoun counties to 230-kV operation (Line #124 conversion); and build, in Prince William County and the Town of Haymarket, the new approximately 5.1-mile, overhead transmission line from a tap point about 0.5 mile north of the company’s existing Gainesville substation on the Line #124 conversion to the new Haymarket substation (the Haymarket Loop).
According to the company, the project is necessary to provide service to a new data center campus in Prince William County, as well as to maintain reliable electric service to its customers in the area in accordance with mandatory NERC Reliability Standards for transmission facilities and the company’s transmission planning criteria.
The proposed in-service date for the project is June 1, 2018, the SCC added.
Since the company would need to build the proposed Haymarket Loop on new right of way (ROW), Dominion Virginia Power identified a proposed route (“I-66 Overhead Route”), as well as four alternative routes, for the SCC’s consideration. The company estimates that it will take 12 months to build the proposed project, and 12 months for engineering, material procurement, and construction permitting. The SCC added that the company estimated the cost of the proposed project to be about $50.9m.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in January 2016 filed a report on the project recommending, among other things, that the company coordinate with Prince William County in its discussion with the Virginia Department of Transportation on a $167m “I-66 Hybrid Route,” which places about 3.2 miles of the line underground.
The SCC also said that state regulatory staff in June 2016 concluded that the company had reasonably demonstrated the need for the project and made certain recommendations regarding routing.
A hearing examiner in November 2016 issued a report finding, for instance, that the project is needed so that the company can continue to provide reasonably adequate service to its customers at reasonable and just rates, and that the $62m “Carver Road Route” reasonably minimizes the project’s impact on the environment, scenic assets, and historic resources.
The SCC also said that it finds that the public convenience and necessity require Dominion Virginia Power to convert its existing 115-kV Gainesville-Loudoun Line #124 in Prince William and Loudoun counties to 230 kV; build a new 230-34.5-kV substation in Prince William County; and build a new 230-kV double circuit transmission line. The SCC said that it finds that a certificate of public convenience and necessity should be issued authorizing the project.
It is uncontested that a retail customer of the company is driving the identified need for the project, which has been designated and approved as a “supplemental project” by PJM Interconnection because it is necessary to address Dominion Virginia Power’s local transmission needs, the SCC said.
Upon consideration of the extensive record developed in the proceeding, the SCC said that it finds that the Carver Road Route and the Railroad Route, which was developed to maximize the use of existing railroad ROW and reasonably uses collocation opportunities, meet the statutory criteria.
The Railroad Route is the only route that impacts zero residences within 200 feet of the centerline, and it impacts significantly fewer residences within 500 feet of the centerline compared to the I-66 Overhead Route, the SCC said. Furthermore, the heavily wooded area along that route will provide screening, aiding to minimize remaining visual impacts of the line.
The SCC added that the Carver Road Route crosses no permanently protected open space or other conservation easements, and it contains no architectural resources within the ROW. After the Railroad Route, the Carver Road Route has the least amount of residences within 200 feet of the line, and it impacts significantly fewer residences within 500 feet of the centerline compared to the I-66 Overhead Route, the SCC said. The Carver Road Route avoids permanent impacts to the highest concentration of residents in the vicinity of I-66, the SCC said.
Between the two routes meeting the statutory criteria, the SCC said that it finds that the Railroad Route is preferable because it has a lesser impact on local residences at a cost that is comparable to – and $7m less than – the Carver Road Route.
While Dominion Virginia Power, early in the routing process, selected the Railroad Route as the preferred route to meet the need and to reasonably minimize adverse impact, it did not choose that route as the preferred alternative because the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors voted to approve the conveyance of a property interest by the property owner, a Home Owners’ Association to the county, rendering that alternative unable to be built without agreement by the county.
The SCC added that within 60 days from the date of the interim order, the company is to file written confirmation that any legal constraints blocking construction of the Railroad Route have been removed or, in the alternative, notice that construction of that route is not possible due to the legal inability to procure necessary ROWs.
If Prince William County does not grant the company’s requests to permit construction of the Railroad Route, the SCC said that the proposed project would need to be built along the Carver Road Route.
The SCC also noted that given the high concentration of residents along the I-66 Overhead Route, it finds that that route is not the best alternative when compared to the Railroad and Carver Road routes.
The SCC said that it finds that those routes are preferable to the I-66 Hybrid Route, and that the significantly greater cost for construction of the I-66 Hybrid Route is not justified by the record in the case. Also, while the Railroad and Carver Road routes affect more acreage of wetlands, the I-66 Hybrid Route would be more intrusive to wetlands than an overhead route. The SCC added that the I-66 Hybrid Route would not significantly alleviate impacts to historic resources compared to other routes.
In addition, the SCC said that the record reflects that the I-66 Hybrid Route would be more difficult to build than any of the alternative routes considered.
The SCC noted that it has considered the comments, resolutions, and statements of all participants and public witnesses in the case, including Prince William County’s assertion that the I-66 Hybrid Route is the only alignment consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
“When considered as a whole, however, the commission finds that the record does not justify construction of the proposed transmission line along the I-66 Hybrid Route compared to the two overhead alternatives that we find meet the statutory requirements,” the SCC said. “The commission finds that the costs and adverse impacts attendant to the I-66 Hybrid Route are neither reasonable nor in the public interest.”
Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion (NYSE:D).