Dominion Energy scouting for pumped storage sites in Virginia.

Dive Brief:

  • Dominion Energy is looking at potential sites for a pumped hydropower plant in Southwest Virginia, company officials told local news outlets.
  • Dominion officials said the project, which would be sited in coal country, would cost at least $1.8 million and would create about 50 permanent jobs. A law passed earlier this year encouraged utilities to install pumped storage facilities in the state’s coalfield region.
  • Dominion expects to narrow the selection process down to a handful of sites in the new few months. Appalachian Power is also open to pumped hydro options, but company officials said Dominion is further along in the siting process.

Dive Insight:

Virginia lawmakers in February overwhelmingly passed a bill that allowed utilities in the state to receive rate approval to build one of more pumped hydropower plants.

The bill, HB 1760, sought to allow rate approval for a pumped hydro station that uses “associated on-site or off-site renewable energy resources as all or a portion of their power source.” The measure also requires the project to be located in the state’s coalfield region.

Dominion officials now say they have looked at a number of sites using maps and satellite imagery, hoping to narrow the list to five to 20 sites in the next few months.

“The facility would just run in times of peak demand when it is the coldest days or hottest days,” Greg Edwards, a Dominion external affairs representative, told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Dominion could be looking to use an old coal mine to defray construction costs for the project. The German state of North-Rhine Westphalia is using that approach in a project that proposes to turn an unused coal mine into a 200 MW pumped hydro plant.

Duke Energy, meanwhile, is considering adding 200 MW of capacity to its 1,000 MW Bad Creek pumped hydro station in South Carolina.

Dominion already has experience with pumped hydro stations. With Appalachian Power, it owns the 3,003 MW Bath County pumped storage plant in Virginia that entered service in 1985. The Bath project cost about $1 billion to build.

Appalachian, which serves customers in southwestern Virginia, says it is open to pumped hydro investments as well, but has not taken on the same site evaluation as Dominion.

“Dominion got a bit ahead of us and they got a lot of work done, apparently,” spokesperson John Shepelwich told the Herald Courier. “And they’ve moved on to a second phase.”

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