Dominion Energy’s proposed hydroelectrical plant will find a home in Tazewell County, provided all the i’s can be dotted and the t’s crossed.
The Richmond-based company is hoping to build an 800-megawatt pumped storage power station on 2,600 acres it owns on East River Mountain. The company bought the land on the border of Bland County in 2009, when another electrical generation project was being pursued.
The Tazewell County site, in Bluefield, Virginia, was competing with a smaller site in Wise County, which would have produced 150 megawatts. Though the Bullitt mine property in Wise won’t be used by Dominion, company officials said another, smaller operator may still be interested.
Legislation approved in 2017 cleared the way for a pumped storage station in the coalfields. Dominion operates a much larger pumped storage facility in Bath County. That site, officials said, produces 3,000 megawatts and is the largest of its kind in the United States.
The planned facility in Tazewell would work much the same way as the one in Bath County.
During times of high electrical demand, water stored in an upper reservoir would be released to a lower reservoir, turning turbines to generate power along the way. The water would later, during times of low-cost energy, be pumped back up to be stored for on-demand electricity.
The upper reservoir, which would hold 6.5 billion gallons of water, is shown on Dominion maps to be located along Chestnut Ridge on East River Mountain. The lower reservoir is shown as being along West Fork Cove Creek.
Officials with Dominion said the plan would be designed to have a 10-hour run time at full capacity.
Thanks to a revenue-sharing agreement between municipalities in the coalfields, much of region would benefit from Tazewell’s plant. Under a deal approved by legislators, Tazewell County, as the host county, would receive 22% of the tax revenue. Wise County would receive 16% of the tax revenue. Buchanan, Lee, Russell and Scott counties would each receive 12%. Dickenson County would take 10%, and the city of Norton would get 4%.
In addition to receiving the largest share of the tax funds, Tazewell County would stand to see $320 million in total economic benefits — including 2,083 jobs — during the construction phase. The facility is predicted to provide $12 million in annual local tax revenue.
There is a hitch in the plan, though.
The original study looked at piping in water from an idle mine near Amonate, about eight or nine miles to the west of the proposed facility. Communications specialist Jeremy L. Slayton said Dominion couldn’t quantify the amount of water available at the mine and has decided on a new plan — one that goes hunting for water to the east instead of the west.
The new plan, subject to new studies and surveys, is looking to pull water from Wolf Creek, about 15 miles away in Bland County.
The company would need to conduct environmental and geological studies and pass muster with the Department of Environmental Quality to divert a portion of water flowing in Wolf Creek to fill the upper reservoir. In particular, officials said studies would need to ensure that there are no endangered or protected animals or plants in the creek shed. Tapping Wolf Creek to fill the reservoir could take two or more years, Slayton said.
The power company is planning two July open houses. The first one, on July 16, will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Graham High School. The second is slated for July 18 at Bland County High School from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The Bath County facility has been in operation since 1985 and is capable of powering about 750,000 homes.