The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), in an Aug. 29 final order, authorized Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Energy Virginia to build and operate the Remington-Gordonsville 230-kV Double Circuit Transmission Line, subject to certain conditions.
The project must be built and in service by June 1, 2020, but the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown, the SCC said in its order.
As noted in the order, Dominion Energy Virginia in November 2015 filed with the SCC an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the proposed project.
The company is proposing 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.
The SCC also said that the company, as part of the project, is proposing to build and install associated 230-kV facilities at its Gordonsville and Remington substations.
In its application, the company proposed to install double circuit single-shaft weathered steel pole structures with an average height of 103-107 feet to allow the installation of a second circuit along the existing ROW between the Remington Junction and the Gordonsville substation, 22.2 miles of which is 100 feet in width, while the remaining 16 miles of the existing corridor is 70 feet in width.
The company said that it would seek to expand existing easements or acquire additional easements to establish a 100-foot ROW for the length of the project where practically feasible, the SCC added.
Dominion asserts that the project is necessary for the company to continue to provide reliable electric service to customers served from the company’s existing Gordonsville substation and to address projected violations of NERC reliability standards that could lead to service interruptions or potentially damage electrical facilities in the area, the SCC said.
If approved, the SCC said, Dominion estimates that it would take 14-18 months to build the project, as well as 11 months for engineering, material procurement, ROW acquisition, and construction permitting. The company estimates the cost of the proposed project to be about $104.6m, the SCC said.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in a report filed with the SCC in February 2016, provided certain recommendations concerning the project, including that Dominion 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.
The SCC also said that staff, in its May 2016 testimony, concluded that the company has demonstrated a need for the project, and agreed with the company’s proposed route for the project. In response to numerous requests by public witnesses that the structure heights be limited to 80 feet, staff asked the company to state the incremental impact on cost and ROW requirements for the use of shorter structures along the entire wreck and rebuild corridor from the Remington Junction to the Gordonsville substation.
The SCC added that the company described two possible scenarios, including a hypothetical single circuit 230-kV H-frame structure, built alongside the existing 115-kV structures, which would be on average about 41 feet shorter than the proposed double circuit structures, but would require a 180-foot-wide ROW.
Staff did not take a position regarding structure height, and noted that building the project at a lower structure height appears to be technically feasible but could require a wider ROW or an increase in the number of structures required to accommodate the shorter, but wider, structures. The SCC added that staff testified that the additional project costs associated with using shorter structures, estimated by the company to be $7.5m, excluding forestry and real estate costs, are reasonable in order to reduce the visual impacts to scenic, cultural, and historical resources in the region.
In July 2016 rebuttal testimony, the company said, for instance, that the shorter structure option is technically feasible and may be reasonable for portions of the ROW where there are no constraints, provided that certain conditions are met, including consent by all affected property owners. The company estimated that, given those conditions, about 24.1 miles of the length of the proposed project potentially can be expanded to the 140-foot ROW required for the shorter structure option.
As TransmissionHub reported, an SCC hearing examiner, in a June 13 report, recommended that the SCC grant the company a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project.
According to the Aug. 29 order, in Dominion’s comments to that report, the company said that it continues to support the shorter structure option where technically feasible, subject to certain conditions, with the exception that Dominion “agreed that compensation for property owners who voluntarily agreed to participate in the shorter structure option should be compensated from a pool of funds capped at” $2.5m, based on current assess land values.
The SCC added that the company anticipates that it will take about three months from the date of the final order to negotiate consents and compensation with affected property owners and the relevant agencies. Dominion stated that it anticipates starting construction in December 2018, with an in-service date of June 2020, the SCC said.
The SCC said that it agrees with the chief hearing examiner that the project is needed to comply with mandatory NERC reliability standards and so that the company can continue to provide reliable electric service to customers served from the company’s existing Gordonsville substation at just and reasonable rates.
Based on the unique circumstances of the case, the SCC said that it finds that the company is to build the shorter structure option where feasible along the length of the approved route for the project, subject to certain conditions, including consent by the affected property owner for use of the additional 40 feet of ROW beyond the initially proposed ROW.
In addition, the SCC said that it conditions approval of the proposed project on the company’s use of a de-glared finish on its transmission conductors.
Among other things, the SCC said that it finds that as a condition of its approval, Dominion must comply with the DEQ’s recommendations, with the exception of the recommendation that the SCC require coordination with Madison County, which is not applicable to the approved route.