Dominion affiliate proposes Tazewell pumped storage project

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Virginia-based utility company has applied to federal regulators for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of a pumped hydroelectric storage facility in the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia. If built, Dominion Energy Services, Inc.'s Tazewell Hybrid Energy Center Project could use mine water sources for the initial fill and makeup water. 

On September 6, 2017, Dominion Energy Services, Inc. filed an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit, pursuant to section 4(f) of the Federal Power Act, proposing to study the feasibility of the Tazewell Hybrid Energy Center Project. As described in Dominion’s application, a September 7 press release, and a September 29 notice by the Commission, the Tazewell project would be a pumped hydroelectric storage facility. According to Dominion, the project would “be operated by Dominion Energy Virginia for hydropower generation during peak energy demand periods and pumping during off-peak energy demand periods.” Dominion points to grid benefits from pumped storage including integration of intermittent power generation sources, enhancement of grid stability and supply of other ancillary benefits. The applicant notes that the site “could support multiple configurations, including different-sized pumped-storage facilities,” a flexibility which Dominion said enables it to determine the best environmental, technical and economic solution.

The project would not use any existing dams or hydroelectric facilities, but would involve new dams and other facilities constructed for the proposed project. In its application, Dominion described two alternative configurations — a smaller Alternative 1 and a larger-capacity Alternative 2 – featuring an upper reservoir and a lower reservoir. Under either alternative, Dominion described potential water sources “for the initial fill and makeup water” as
(1) Mine ID P03_903 and (2) Mine ID P03_017. The initial fill water for the Project's reservoirs will be supplied by one or more of these water sources via a proposed pump and water conveyance system… Although the upper reservoir would be located on Oneida Branch and the lower reservoir would be located in West Fork Cove Creek, it is anticipated that the proposed Project will use mine water sources for the initial fill and makeup water.
Dominion says it will evaluate the feasibility of relying on mine water sources under the preliminary permit.

Dominion’s press release mentioned that it is also conducting in-depth studies of another potential site for a pumped hydroelectric storage facility, the former Bullitt Mine near Appalachia, Virginia. That mine has been closed since 1997 and is currently flooded.

In its application, Dominion cited 2017 Virginia legislation that it said “encourages one or more pumped storage stations and includes a requirement that all or a portion of it be powered by renewable energy produced in the coalfield region.”  That legislation amended existing law to allow a utility to petition the State Corporation Commission for approval of a rate adjustment clause to recover from customers the costs of “one or more pumped hydroelectricity generation and storage facilities that utilize on-site or off-site renewable energy resources as all or a portion of their power source and such facilities and associated resources are located in the coalfield region of the Commonwealth ... regardless of whether such facility is located within or without the utility's service territory.” The coalfield region is defined as including seven counties and one city: Lee, Wise, Scott, Buchanan, Russell, Tazewell and Dickenson Counties and the City of Norton.

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