Dominion Energy owns about 2,600 acres of the Tazewell site near East River Mountain, which it purchased in 2009 when the company was pursuing another electric generation project. The company filed a Preliminary Permit Application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in early September which will allow it to perform detailed “on-the-ground” studies of the property and additional parcels needed for the project, with landowner permission.
Michael Karmis, an internationally recognized expert on coal and energy research, will lead the Virginia Tech study of the Bullitt Mine. Dominion chose to delay filing a preliminary permit application with FERC for the Bullitt Mine site pending the results of the study by Karmis and the Virginia Tech team.
The project could bring approximately $576 million in economic benefits to the Commonwealth, according to a new study commissioned by Dominion and carried out by Richmond-based Chmura Economics & Analytics. More than half of this impact would occur in the coalfield region, the study found.
The report also concluded the hydroelectric project would cost approximately $2 billion for planning and construction and would support nearly 3,000 Virginia jobs, including more than 2,000 in the coalfield region. Once in operation, the facility would produce about $12 million annually in tax revenue for local governments in Southwest Virginia.
“We are very excited about the prospect of bringing another major capital investment to the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia,” said Mark Mitchell, vice president of generation construction. “The entire grid system will benefit from having this new generation once it comes online, and the local area will benefit from the jobs and economic benefits that will come from it.”
Coalfield area lawmakers have promoted pumped hydroelectric storage as one way of addressing the region’s economic challenges. The legislation passed this year by the Virginia General Assembly, designed to encourage the development of pumped storage technology in the region, allows a Virginia utility building a pumped storage facility in the coalfields to petition the State Corporation Commission for recovery of its project costs as they are incurred.
Dominion currently operates a 3,000-megawatt pumped storage station in Bath County. It is the largest of its kind in the United States, with the capability of powering about 750,000 homes. At full capacity, it produces more energy than the Hoover Dam. Dominion Energy owns the Bath County facility jointly with First Energy Corp.
Illustration of a pumped hydroelectric storage facility (Dominion Energy)