Power plays

Energy projects rely on coal, nuclear, biofuels and wind

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

Everything from coal to wind will help power Virginia in the future. Here’s a quick review on some of the projects, both proposed and under way: 


Dominion Resources’ new $1.8 billion coal plant in Wise County is on schedule and should be complete by 2012.  The Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center will provide 585 megawatts of new power generation. For fuel, the plant will use coal and up to 20 percent biomass. As many as 2,200 workers have been employed during construction. Once the plant opens, an operations staff of 80 will run the plant, and 20 more will be employed by a subcontractor who will manage an ash landfill. In addition, the power station is expected to support another 350 mining and trucking jobs in the region that will supply fuel to the plant. It will provide enough power for 146,000 homes.

In southeastern Virginia the slow economy has pushed back plans for a $4 billion, 1,500 megawatt coal-fired plant proposed by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. David Hudgins, the cooperative’s director of member and external relations, says ODEC remains committed to building the plant but intends to hold off for 18 to 24 months, since the economy has depressed demand. That means the soonest it could come online would be 2018.


Dominion says it won’t proceed at this time with a third nuclear reactor at North Anna Power Station without an equity partner. Yet, without a third reactor in Louisa County, it needs to find another power source to make up for the 1,300 megawatts of electricity the project would provide. “We’re trying to work out the financial requirements that would allow us to go forward,” says Rick Zuercher, manager of nuclear public affairs for Dominion.

A backup to a third reactor could be a new natural-gas, combined-cycle plant, Zuercher says. Whatever way the company decides to go, a new unit needs to be online by 2020 to meet projected power demands.
Lynchburg-based Babcock & Wilcox hopes to gain federal approval for the production of SMRs, or small modular reactors. The company has developed mPower, a reactor that generates about 125 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 75,000 to 100,000 homes.  The unit is 12 feet wide by 75 feet long.  The company plans to apply to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for design certification and hopes to have demonstration plants online by 2020.

Construction wrapped in August on the $170 million Appomattox Bio Energy facility in Hopewell, the country’s first, major barley-to-ethanol plant. The project, by Henrico-County based Osage Bio Energy, is designed to convert ethanol for gasoline blends. So far, it’s been operating at a reduced capacity as it goes through test runs. At full production, it will use 30 million bushels of barley a year to make about 65 million gallons of ethanol. It employs 55 employees. The company continues to contract for winter barley with local farmers, and plans to be in full production by early 2011.


Preliminary site work began last year on Virginia’s first commercial wind farm in Highland County, but construction is not expected to get under way until 2011. Highland New Wind Development plans a 38-megawatt project and has obtained the state and local permits to move forward. Financing for the $80 million farm, which will include 19 turbines on some of the highest ridges in the state, has not been revealed, says project spokesman Frank Maisano.

Invenergy wants to put 15 wind turbines on Poor Mountain in Roanoke County, a proposal that has won the backing of an environmental group. The Roanoke Chapter of the Sierra Club came out in favor of the wind farm in October because of its potential to reduce carbon emissions. Invenergy, based in Chicago, still must obtain approval from the county’s Board of Supervisors as well as gain other permits for the $80 million to $100 million wind farm.

Two Virginia-based companies, Apex Wind Energy in Charlottesville and Seawind Renewable Energy Corp. of Henrico County, have applied with federal regulators for offshore leases, but the permitting process can take years.
Students in Virginia will be able to get training in wind-power technologies. James Madison University’s Center for Wind Energy recently received an $800,000 state grant to develop a small wind training and testing facility.


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