Dominion Energy, which was scouring Virginia’s coalfields region for possible locations for a pumped hydroelectric storage facility, has found two potential sites.
The Richmond-based energy company is continuing to study the feasibility of building a pumped storage facility and is focusing on a long-closed coal mine in Wise County and a 4,100-acre site in Tazewell County, the company announced Thursday.
Pumped storage facilities create energy by moving water from one reservoir to a second reservoir, typically during peak energy times.
Dominion operates what it describes as the largest pumped storage facility in the U.S. in Bath County. Appalachian Power Co.’s Smith Mountain Project is a pumped storage operation between Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes.
Coalfields lawmakers cheered Dominion’s progress Thursday. Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, said he is thrilled Dominion is eyeing two sites in his district.
“The potential for new jobs and millions of new dollars in revenue for our hurting localities is exciting news for us in the region,” he said in a statement. “Hydro pump storage presents a unique opportunity that will lift the entire region with new investments and jobs.”
Dominion filed a preliminary permit with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Tazewell County site Wednesday, according to a news release. The company already owns 2,600 acres in northeastern Tazewell County near East River Mountain, having purchased the land in 2009 for another project.
The FERC application allows Dominion to proceed with various environmental, geological and technical studies on site.
As for the former Bullitt Mine in western Wise County near Appalachia, Dominion has enlisted Virginia Tech to study the site. The mine was shuttered in 1997, and Dominion will wait to see the results of the Virginia Tech study before submitting an application with FERC.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, in surveying abandoned coal mines that could be transformed into pumped storage facilities, marked the Bullitt Mine as one of Virginia’s top contenders, according to the Dominion news release. Converting an abandoned mine into a pumped storage facility is a relatively new idea and has never been done before.
Dominion also said it may pursue other potential sites as the process moves forward. Building such a project would cost approximately $2 billion, created hundreds of temporary construction jobs and about 50 permanent jobs, Dominion said.
Earlier this year, a coalition of lawmakers from the coalfields carried bills to fast-track hydroelectric pumped storage facilities in the region. The legislation that was signed into law declares such energy projects in the public interest and would allow the electric utilities to petition the state to recover their project costs once a facility is operable.
Del. Terry Kilgore, a Republican from Scott County who introduced some of the legislation, stressed that a new power generation facility will help all the localities in the coalfields region due to a revenue-sharing agreement.
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said Dominion’s in-depth study of two locations brings the pumped storage facility closer to reality.
Following passage of state legislators’ pumped storage legislation, Griffith introduced federal legislation to fast-track permitting for closed-loop hydropower storage facilities. Griffith’s bill has not yet advanced to a committee hearing.
“I firmly believe that pumped storage hydropower holds great promise for the coalfields of Southwest Virginia, he said in a statement. “The coalfields already have much of the infrastructure for this technology. In return, they would benefit from the jobs these facilities would bring and the energy they would provide.”
While the company believes the Tazewell and Wise sites are its most promising, Dominion said it may pursue other sites as well. Dominion said it expects to make a decision on which location is superior by mid-2018.