Open house informs public on hydroelectric pump station

Posted on Oct 6, 2017

BLAKE STOWERS | Bluefield Daily Telegraph | Oct 6, 2017

Dominion Energy representative Blaine Garrett informs Eddy White about where the proposed Dominion Energy Pumped Hydroelectric Storage Power Station is considering being built at in Tazewell County. The energy company held a public meeting Thursday night at Tazewell High School where the community had the chance to get more information about the project.

TAZEWELL, Va. — Residents and landowners who filled Tazewell High School on Thursday night to learn more about a $2 billion hydroelectric pump station proposed by Dominion Energy were calling it an “opportunity” for the community.

Jack Thompson from Tazewell, Va. said the hydroelectric pump station is a “very viable project” for Tazewell County.

“We can sustain our future for the kids and the families for this area,” Thompson said. “We need to pull in and bring new business to the area. It will bring good, permanent jobs to the area.”

 Travis Absher from Tazewell, Va. said he likes the proposed project. “I think (the project) will really help us,” Absher said. “I’m for it.”

Tom Bowman from Cedar Bluff, Va. attended the open house on Thursday as well.

“We’re really excited about this for Tazewell County,” Bowman said. “We think it’s a great opportunity with a good company that’s demonstrated what they can do in Wise County with that big powerplant. We’re hoping that this thing can be pulled off and create a lot of opportunities not just this opportunity, but maybe get some other things going on for the county. We’re very supportive.”

Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said he encouraged residents to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“This project will allow Dominion to use the property they own in a positive productive manner and bring high paying construction jobs to our area and longer term jobs operating the facility,” said Hymes. “I will work diligently to convince Dominion energy to locate this project in Tazewell County.”

Eddie White from Tazewell, Va. said he supports the project.

“My land will be bordering the project,” White said. “I’m all for it. I hope it will be a great thing for Tazewell County. I hope it gets done.”

A 4,100 acre site on East River Mountain in Tazewell County is one of two locations being considered for the hydroelectric storage facility. The second proposed site is an abandoned mine in Wise County.

According to the company, Dominion already owns 2,600 acres on the Tazewell County site.

“The preliminary estimate for a single facility could be in the range of $2 billion and provide millions in tax revenue to counties in the coalfield region,” Dominion said in an earlier report. “The project would also create hundreds of jobs during construction and up to 50 permanent jobs when complete.”

Hydroelectric pump storage facilities act as large batteries that store energy in the form of water. During off-peak energy hours, when demand is lower, less expensive energy is used to pump water from a reservoir at a lower altitude up to a reservoir at a higher altitude. The water is stored in the upper reservoir until an on-peak period, or period of high demand. At that point, the water is allowed to flow downhill to a power generation facility where it spins turbines. The turbines activate generators that produce electric power that is then delivered to the electric grid.

Legislation passed during an early summer session of the Virginia General Assembly authorized electric utilities such as Dominion to apply to the Virginia State Corporation Commission for permission to construct pump hydroelectric storage facilities in the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, and Delegate Todd Pillion, R-Washington.

Dominion Energy currently operates an existing pump hydroelectric storage station in Bath County, Va. That facility has the ability to provide electricity to 750,000 homes.

Several counties in the region have agreed to support Dominion Energy in the project across the coalfields of southwest Virginia. The hydroelectric storage power station will cost more than $1.8 billion to build, and would provide millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the locality that is ultimately selected for the development.

Dominion Energy Spokesman Dan Genest said Thursday night was an open house for the community.

“We’re giving the public a chance to come in and learn about what we’re proposing to do, what we hope to do somewhere in the coalfields of Virginia,” Genest said. “We’re looking at two different sites: one in Tazewell, one in Wise County. We’re doing intensive studies to see if it is actually feasible to build that kind of a power generation facility. People have been very welcoming. We hope we can answer all their questions.”

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