Virginia regulators approve, subject to conditions, Dominion’s 500-kV rebuild project

The Virginia State Corporation Commission, in a Sept. 10 final order, authorized Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion) to build and operate the 500-kV component of a rebuild project, subject to certain conditions.

As noted in the order, Dominion in September 2017 filed with the commission an application for approval and for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for the proposed transmission line rebuild of the 500-kV Dooms-Valley Line #549.

The company proposed to rebuild, entirely within existing right of way (ROW), about 17.7 miles of the existing line in Augusta County, located between Dominion’s existing Dooms substation and Valley substation. Specifically, the commission added in its order, the company proposed to:

  • Remove the 500-kV existing single-circuit, weathering steel lattice towers supporting Line #549 between the two substations and replace them with new double-circuit, galvanized steel lattice towers supporting the 500-kV line with capability for a 230-kV underbuild to support future load growth
  • Remove and replace existing 2-2049.5 bundled AAAC conductors of Line #549 with three triple-bundled 1351.5 ACSR phase conductors

While the existing structures range between 77 feet and 150 feet in height, the proposed structures would range between 100 feet and 174 feet in height.

The commission also said that the proposed in-service date for the rebuild project is June 1, 2020, and that the total cost for the project is about $62m.

The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in late 2017 filed a report on the rebuild project, providing certain recommendations for the commission’s consideration, including that the company should:

  • Conduct an on-site delineation of wetlands and streams within the rebuild project area with verification by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Coordinate with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for updates to the Biotics Data System database if the scope of the project changes, or six months pass before the project is implemented

The commission added that a hearing examiner, in a report issued in July, found, for instance, that:

  • A CPCN should be issued for the completion of the rebuild project
  • The rebuild of the existing line is justified by the public convenience and necessity
  • The company did not establish a basis for the approval of taller “5-2 Structures” to support the possible addition of a 230-kV underbuild at some point in the future. As TransmissionHub reported, 5-2 Structures are taller lattice towers
  • The structures should be chemically dulled to lessen the visual impact of a new galvanized finish on scenic assets and historic districts
  • The commission should condition approval of the application on the company’s compliance with the unopposed recommendations contained in the DEQ report
  • The commission should require consultation with DCR for updates to the Biotics Data System only if the scope of the project involves material changes or 12 months pass from the date of the commission’s final order before the construction of the rebuild project

The commission said that it finds “that the public convenience and necessity require the company to rebuild its line with the use of single-circuit, chemically dulled, galvanized steel lattice towers, as recommended by the hearing examiner.

The commission noted that it does not find that the public convenience and necessity requires approval of the taller 5-2 Structures with capability for a 230-kV underbuild. The company does not assert that the 230-kV underbuild is currently needed, the commission said, adding that Dominion acknowledges that “the need to install” a 230-kV underbuild has not been established in the instant proceeding.

Furthermore, while Dominion discussed future “scenarios” that could support an underbuild, the company has not established a reasonable estimate as to when the 230-kV underbuild would be needed during the expected 60-year service life of those facilities, the commission said. Instead, Dominion seeks 230-kV underbuild capability “for changes that may occur” related to “as of yet unknown, electrical needs,” the commission said.

Noting that the company argued that the commission has previously approved 230-kV underbuild capability and should likewise do so here, the commission said, in part, that “the approval of double circuit structures in prior cases does not preclude the commission from exercising its discretion based on the specific record in this proceeding.”

The commission also noted that based on consideration of the entire record, it finds that the use of chemical dulling in this instance is desirable and necessary to minimize adverse environmental impact. In addition, the commission said that it finds that there are no adverse environmental impacts that would prevent the construction or operation of the 500-kV component of the rebuild project. As a condition of its approval, the commission said that Dominion is to comply with all of the recommendations provided in the DEQ report, with this exception:

  • The commission adopts the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the company is to consult with DCR for updates to the Biotics Data System only if the scope of the rebuild project involves material changes, or 12 months from the date of the final order pass before the project begins construction

Among other things, the commission said that the 500-kV component of the rebuild project must be built and in service by July 1, 2020, but the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.

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.