Dominion Resources Inc. announced today that it plans to build a 1,600-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Southside Virginia.
The plant — which would be the state’s largest fueled by natural gas — would be built on a 1,143-acre property that straddles the Greensville-Brunswick county line, with most of the land in Greensville.
The company said the plant would cost about $1 billion and that it could power 400,000 homes when operating at peak capacity.
It will draw fuel from a Transco pipeline that is being extended to the site, and it would eventually be supplied by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The plant, which would need to be approved by the State Corporation Commission, would open in 2019.
“We are very pleased to have been selected for the site of this project and welcome Dominion to our county,” said Peggy R. Wiley, chairwoman of the Greensville Board of Supervisors.
Dominion Generation, the subsidiary of the Richmond-based energy company that builds and operates power plants, said it also will seek to have the property zoned so it potentially could hold large-scale solar facilities.
Dominion said the gas-fired plant would have 45 full-time employees when it opens, and that up to 1,000 people could work there during construction.
The site is about 4½ miles from a 1,300-megawatt gas-fired plant that Dominion is building in Brunswick. That plant is more than half complete and is expected to begin generating power next year.
The proposed plant drew a withering response from the Sierra Club. Glen Besa, director of the club's Virginia Chapter, said the company's recently-announced renewable energy projects are little more than "tokenism" when compared to the massive natural gas power plants Dominion is building.
The Chesapeake Climate Action network also condemned the plant, arguing that "Governor McAuliffe has his facts wrong in endorsing this project as 'clean,' just as he did when endorsing Dominion’s massive Atlantic Coast pipeline for fracked gas."
"Dominion and the Governor need to make real plans for the kind of carbon pollution cuts that are called for to address global warming," Besa said in a statement.
The company has filed zoning permit applications in both counties. It plans to submit regulatory paperwork to the SCC in July and begin construction in 2016 if it receives state and federal approvals.
"This plant will offer clean, reliable and low-cost energy to Virginia homes and businesses and at the same time, the jobs and tax revenue generated will be a positive boost for Greensville County and all of Southside Virginia," said Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Dominion has been investing heavily in gas-fired plants in recent years, taking advantage of the boom in drilling that has led to lower prices. It opened a major gas-fired plant in Warren County, near Front Royal, about four months ago.
The shift to gas also is coming as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules make it harder to operate coal-fired plants. Generating a megawatt of electricity from natural gas creates half as much carbon dioxide as a megawatt of electricity generated from coal.
To fuel these new power plants, Dominion and other utilities need to get more gas into Southside from the Marcellus shale fields in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. But the proposed 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has drawn fierce opposition, especially from property owners in Nelson and Augusta counties, where the 42-inch pipe would cross the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The proposed pipeline “will be critical to providing reliability, infrastructure, fuel supply diversity and helping to keep fuel costs low not only for this plant but the entire generation fleet,” Dominion said.
Dominion warned the General Assembly this winter that the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan could force it to close coal-fired plants in coming years. Dominion sought — and received — permission to freeze customers’ base rates until late 2022.
That means customers won’t get refunds if the company earns more than it should, but it also means the company cannot raise its base rates in the next seven years. The company can still raise its charges for fuel, however, and can ask state regulators to increase customers’ bills to pay for new power stations.
The legislation approved this year also requires Dominion to build the first large-scale solar power facilities in the state, with 500 megawatts operating by 2020. Another amendment directs large utilities to help low-income customers with energy assistance and weatherization of homes.