Dominion Energy’s Virginia City hybrid coal plant in Wise County is expected to remain in operation for the next 24 years, a company official said.
The plant is slated to remain online until 2045, when it is to be closed by the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020. That legislation included an exception that allows the plant to remain open past 2024, when other coal plants are to close.
Until that time, it remains an important part of the fleet, according to William Murray, Dominion’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications.
“We plan to operate it until 2045. It is a very important resource for our system,” Murray said in response to a question during a meeting Monday with the Bristol Herald Courier’s editorial board.
“It’s the most modern coal plant that we have; it’s one of the most modern in the world. It’s got a good energy security advantage because its fuel is on site, it can operate on demand, operate around the clock when needed, but it’s also got a good environmental story,” he said. “Its emissions are low, it’s a very heavily controlled plant and because of the ability to burn gob coal and biomass.”
Operational since 2012, it can generate up to 610 megawatts, or enough to power 150,000 homes. The plant has burned more than 4 million tons of gob or waste coal that could otherwise pollute the land or water.
The facility generates $8.5 million annually in tax revenue for Wise County and the town of St. Paul and supports about 500 local jobs, according to the company.
“It is the one viable solution for burning waste coal and it’s a very flexible resource,” Murray said.
Virginia City is one of three coal plants in Dominion’s fleet. Their Clover, Virginia, facility can generate 877 megawatts and the other in Mount Storm, West Virginia, produces 1,632 megawatts.
At present, about 40% of Dominion’s power production relies on natural gas, about 33% is nuclear, coal represents less than 15% and the balance includes purchased power and renewables hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, which is the importance of the Virginia City hybrid energy center,” Murray said. “We closed most of our coal. At one time – 15 years ago – 51% of our generation was coal. We were never as coal heavy as some others is we had the four nuclear units. Now we’re rounding down to 10%, but it’s an important source of fuel diversity that Virginia City brings because we’ve got on-site fuel storage. If there was some large-scale disruption in natural gas supplies, the advantage of a coal plant is you’ve got fuel on site for 30-plus days.”
The company is making significant investments in renewables, he added.
“We’ve got the only operating offshore wind farm in the United States right now,” Murray said. “We are developing the largest offshore wind project in the United States. It’s the largest project in our history. At the same time, we’re also looking at traditional energy sources and how do we keep them operating. We are extending the licenses on all four of our Virginia nuclear units – that is almost 4,000 megawatts or around-the-clock, carbon-free electricity.”
Smaller scale nuclear plants – capable of producing 300 megawatts – could also be part of its future.
“That is something we’re very interested in,” Murray said. “They can be more mass produced so you’re looking at capital expenditures around $1 billion not $10 billion. You have the opportunity to site them in several different places. In a way, it’s a new concept for U.S. utilities to have more distributed small module reactors, but the Navy has been doing it since the early 1960s.”
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