Bluefield, Va. – While winter weather has slowed some of the outdoor work Dominion Energy is moving forward with its study of a potential hydroelectric plant on East River Mountain.
Spencer Adkins, director of power generation projects for the company said last week that the company is continuing its studies of the site. County Engineer Kenneth Dunford told the planning commission at its Jan. 9 meeting that the company has pads in place for drilling sites on the mountain.
Adkins confirmed that they have pads in place for drilling on the lower reservoir site but said they would likely wait until spring before bringing drills in and starting to bore. He said the company is continuing internal evaluations of data obtained from earlier studies.
He said they are also continuing to study the site near Rocky Gap in Bland County where they would obtain the water needed for the project. He said the company has to work with the Department of Environmental Quality to determine the impact of pumping the billion gallons of water needed to operate the plant from Wolf Creek.
They are also working with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to see what, if any effects it would have on the trout and other species that live in the stream. Adkins said when the project was announced that those studies could take up to two years.
The company announced last July that Tazewell County was the only site it is considering for an 800 megawatt plant. The plan would involve an upper and lower reservoir with water pumped between the two to generate electricity.
The electricity would be used during peak demand times for the company’s customers. The original plans called for the water to be piped from an abandoned coal mine near Amonate but studies showed it could not produce adequate water for the site.
The company filed a preliminary permit request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2017 and a pre-application permit last fall. They held public hearings in Tazewell and Bland Counties to provide the communities information about the project.
According to a study by Richmond-based firm Chmura Economics & Analytics, a 10-year development and construction window could bring more than 2,000 jobs to Southwest Virginia and could create nearly $320 million in total economic impact for the region, along with about $12 million annually in tax revenue for local governments.
Tazewell and other counties in the coalfield region would share the tax revenue under an agreement developed when Dominion began studying the site on East River Mountain and one in Wise County. Dominion Energy owns about 2,600 acres on East River Mountain, which it purchased in 2009 when the company was pursuing another electric generation project.