SCC approves Dominion’s request to build new transmission line over James River
The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved a request by Dominion Virginia Power to build new high voltage electric transmission lines from Surry County to the City of Hampton. The project includes an overhead crossing of the James River, which drew opposition from historians, residents and some local officials.
In a press release on Tuesday, the SCC said, “The commission understands the importance of this case to the many people who cherish Virginia’s historical and natural assets and to those who depend on the reliable electric service so critical to Virginia’s economic strength, safety, and quality of life.”
The SCC found that based on the record of the case, the routes chosen for the project reasonably minimize adverse impact on scenic assets, historic districts and resources, and the environment.
Under the Code of Virginia, the SCC must determine whether the public convenience and necessity require the construction of transmission lines in the commonwealth. “Ultimately, the commission must base its decision on the law as applied to the factual record of the case. That is what we have done …” The SCC added that, “The evidence is clear that the proposed project is necessary to continue reliable electric service to the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work across this broad region of Virginia.”
The first segment of the project will be a new overhead 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line between a Dominion switching station in Surry County and a new switching station at Skiffes Creek in James City County. From the Skiffes Creek switching station, a new 230-kV transmission line will be constructed through James City and York counties, Newport News, ending at the Whealton substation in Hampton.
The SCC said that the engineering evidence is overwhelming that as a result of generation retirements prompted by stricter federal environmental regulations and normal continued load growth in the North Hampton Roads Area, an overhead 500-kV transmission line needs to be constructed soon to ensure that a large part of Virginia continues to have reliable electric service.
“The commission can no more ignore the severity of fast-approaching reliability problems than it can the environmental, scenic, and historic impacts associated with the many different possible alternatives explored in this case for addressing those problems,” the SCC wrote. “In this case, the risks associated with the construction of a lower voltage project, either underground or overhead, or other alternatives that do not include a 500-kV overhead transmission line, are simply too great. Were lesser transmission options, for example, approved herein, the record demonstrates that reliable electric service would be compromised to a degree that is unacceptable anywhere in the commonwealth …”