A Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing examiner, in a June 13 report, recommended that the SCC grant Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Energy Virginia) a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Remington-Gordonsville 230-kV Double Circuit Transmission Line.
As noted in the report, the company has proposed to build, entirely along and primarily within existing right of way (ROW), about 38.2 miles of the 230-kV Remington-Gordonsville Line #2153 in Fauquier, Culpeper, Orange, and Albemarle counties between its existing Remington substation in Fauquier County and the existing Gordonsville substation in Albemarle County; as well as to build and install associated 230-kV facilities at the company’s Gordonsville and Remington substations.
According to the company, the project is needed to resolve a number of network reliability violations projected by PJM Interconnection to occur in 2019. Specifically, a 2014 PJM network analysis and an updated load flow run in 2015 identified multiple N-1-1 contingencies that produced thermal overloading and low voltage violations on the company’s electrical network, the hearing examiner added. The project was submitted to PJM in response to a 2014 solicitation for proposals to resolve identified NERC violations, and the PJM Board of Managers approved the project.
The hearing examiner also said that the company, in its application, proposed double circuit, single-shaft, steel pole structures with an average height of 103 to 107 feet to allow the installation of a second circuit along the existing ROW between the Remington Junction and the Gordonsville substation. The hearing examiner added that the ROW is 70 feet wide along 16 miles of the route, and 100 feet along 22.2 miles of the route. The company’s proposal would require expansion of the ROW to 100 feet, where feasible, the hearing examiner said.
In response to public concern and SCC staff testimony, the company evaluated the potential use of shorter H-frame structures with an average height of 85 feet – the shorter structure option – where feasible along portions of the route. The hearing examiner also said that the shorter structure option would require expansion of the ROW to 140 feet to accommodate the shorter structures.
The company concluded that it is technically feasible and may be reasonable to install the shorter structure option for portions of the ROW where there are not constraints subject to four conditions, the hearing examiner said, noting that the shorter structure option is feasible for 24.1 miles of the route.
The four conditions are:
- Consent by all affected property owners
- Agency consent where applicable
- A grant of easements for the 40 feet beyond the 100 feet needed for the project without additional compensation from the company, or in the alternative, compensation with a $2.5m cap for land acquisition costs, based on a formula that examined current assessed land values of properties crossed by the ROW, and values that portion of the property on a per acre basis
- An uninterrupted line distance of about three miles
The hearing examiner also said that the SCC is recommended to direct the company to implement the shorter structure option, where feasible, and provide the company with the necessary flexibility to do so along the 24.1 miles of the 38.2 miles of the route identified by the company as feasible with just compensation to the landowners for the additional ROW.
The additional cost to use the shorter structure option where feasible would be about $10.7m, which would bring the total approximate cost of the project to about $117m, the hearing examiner said, adding, “In staff’s opinion, which I share, that incremental cost is warranted to minimize the environmental impact of a 38.2 mile line through pristine, scenic, and historically significant country.”
The first and four conditions as listed above are reasonable, while the second condition is necessary and appropriate, the hearing examiner said. Of the third condition, the hearing examiner noted that the company first suggested that the grant of easements for the 40 feet beyond the 100 feet needed for the project be without additional compensation from the company; staff and others opposed that suggestion.
The company offered, but did not advocate for, an alternative, compensation with a $2.5m cap for land acquisition costs of the additional 40 feet of ROW, based on a formula that examined current assessed land values of properties crossed by the ROW, and valued that portion of the property on a per acre basis, the hearing examiner said.
The hearing examiner agreed that the property owners should be compensated for the additional 40 feet of ROW, and found that a pool of dollars, determined based on the assessed value of the properties crossed, to be a fair and reasonable approach to uniformly compensating the affected property owners while also assuring that the additional cost of the shorter structure option is reasonably known.
Among other things, the hearing examiner noted that the cost for the company to use de-glared conductors is negligible and further minimizes the project’s environmental impact, and recommended that the company use such conductors.