by James A. Bacon
Dominion Virginia Power asked the State Corporate Commission yesterday for regulatory approval to build a $1.3 billion natural gas-fired power station in Greensville County. The station will generate about 1,600 megawatts, a substantial addition to the power company’s existing 17,600 megawatt fleet.
Combined-cycle technology represents an advance over older gas-fired facilities by running waste heat through a second generator to create additional electricity. The process extracts more heat from a cubic foot of gas and emits less carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated. The station also will have lower water usage and wastewater discharge, Dominion says.
“Our analysis shows that over the life of this station our customers should save more than $2 billion versus the projected cost for purchasing the same amount of power for customers off the regional power grid,” said David Christian, CEO of Dominion Generation in a press statement. “It will be highly efficient, low cost and very reliable. It will also have excellent environmental attributes and an extremely favorable location for fuel and transmission service.”
In a statement released yesterday, a coalition of four environmental groups addressed Dominion’s 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a 15-year outlook of the company’s fuel and facility mix. The statement did not mention the Brunswick facility directly but listed three principles for achieving the objectives of the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft Clean Power Plan, which sets a preliminary target of 38% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The statement called for full disclosure of the company’s carbon emissions, greater attention to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s goal of reducing energy consumption 10% by 2020, and greater emphasis on renewable energy.
At least one of the environmental groups, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, is on record opposing an earlier gas-fired plant proposed by Dominion in Brunswick County. “Relying more heavily on natural gas is not how we want to power our state. Energy efficiency is cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than gas-fired power plants and provides 21st century jobs.”
Both the Brunswick and Greensville plants are included in all scenarios of Dominion’s 2015 IRP. That plan laid out a low-cost scenario, which would not meet EPA goals, as the basis for cost comparison, and proposed four alternate scenarios emphasizing different fuels, including solar, wind, nuclear and natural gas co-fire to supplement existing coal-fired plants. The following elements are common to all four scenarios:
- The natural gas-fired, combined-cycle Brunswick Power Station, with a generating capacity of nearly 1.7 MW, to be completed in 2016.
- A second combined-cycle plant in Greensville County, with a generating capacity of nearly 1.6 MW, to be completed in 2019.
- Retrofit of the 790 MW oil-fired unit 5 at Possum Point Power Station with pollution controls to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
- Retirement of Yorktown Power Station’s two coal-fired units with a combined generating capacity of 320 MW by 2016.
Dominion also envisions integrating more solar, wind and energy efficiency into its long-range plans. These initiatives include:
- 400 MW (nominal capacity) of company-owned solar capacity, including the announced 20 MW Remington Solar facility by 2020.
- 400 MW (nominal capacity) of solar capacity owned by non-utility generators (NUGs) by 2017.
- 16 MW (nominal capacity) installed on customers’ property through the Solar Partnership Program.
- 12 MW (nominal capacity) Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project by 2019.
- 611 MW reduction in peak demand through implementation of demand-side management programs by 2030.
The most cost-effective green energy alternative on a risk-adjusted basis is solar power, Dominion concluded in its IRP. (See “Here Comes the Sun.”) However, the report emphasized that assessment does not take into account the expense associated with upgrading the power grid to handle rapid fluctuations in supply caused by clouds. The IRP also concluded that wind power was the most expensive of the four alternatives.