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Dominion and NOVEC propose reliability upgrades in Fauquier & Prince William

Dominion Virginia Power and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative announced on Feb. 28, 2013, that the utilities are seeking community input on plans to upgrade transmission lines serving Fauquier and Prince William counties to improve reliability. 

“Due to increased demand for electricity in the Fauquier and western Prince William areas, Dominion and NOVEC have identified sections of our transmission system that need to be addressed in the next few years to avoid possible power outages that could affect tens of thousands of customers,” said Le-Ha Anderson, Dominion spokeswoman.

Before developing a project application for the State Corporation Commission (SCC), Dominion and NOVEC are seeking participants for a Community Advisory Group to consider all aspects of the project and provide valuable input that will help guide the utilities. The group will include business people, members of environmental groups, representatives from homeowner-associations and other organizations.  The Natural Resource Group—an independent agency—will facilitate the advisory group.

“We want to engage the community in this process,” Anderson said.

Anderson and NOVEC spokeswoman Priscilla Knight emphasized that the work needs to be done to meet standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), an organization certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to enforce reliability standards. 

Three reliability concerns in the area are:

1. Dominion’s 230-kilovolt transmission line from its Remington power station to its Warrenton substation in Fauquier County is a reliability concern because it is the only transmission line serving customers in Fauquier. During outages, electric companies often reroute power from another line to restore service until crews can fix the problem.  But from Remington to Warrenton, there are no other transmission routes.

2. NOVEC’s Wheeler substation just inside the Prince William County line receives power from Dominion’s Gainesville substation on Balls Ford Road.  The Wheeler substation distributes power to 16,000 NOVEC customers in Fauquier and western Prince William County. These areas have experienced substantial growth in recent years. Although the transmission line and substation have delivered electricity without a power outage in more than a decade, NOVEC wants to take the proactive step of networking its transmission line into the 230-kilovolt network. 

3. The Gainesville substation has similar reliability concerns because of growing demand in the area.  Anderson said, “If there’s an outage at the Gainesville substation, 75,000 customers could lose power for hours or even days.  We don’t want to risk that happening.”

Options for Ensuring Continued Reliability

Anderson and Knight explained that engineers from both utilities have studied more than a dozen options and have narrowed them down to two. 

Option A - With this option, Dominion would build a 230-kilovolt power line that would connect its Warrenton substation to NOVEC’s Wheeler substation.  This approximately seven-mile-long line would connect all the substations in the local area, which would allow Dominion and NOVEC to handle increasing power demand and restore power much faster if major power outages occur. Under Option A, new right-of-way would need to be acquired across private property for the new power poles and transmission line.  Engineers estimate that this option would cost approximately $75 million.

Option B—This option would use existing power-line corridors, but the poles necessary for supporting 230-kilovolt transmission lines would need to be approximately 25 feet higher than the existing 80-foot-high poles.  Under this option, the existing right-of-way corridors would have to be expanded by 25 feet temporarily while the lines are upgraded.  Engineers estimate that this option would cost approximately $95 million. 

Forming a Community Advisory Group

Dominion and NOVEC announced that they will form a community advisory group to study the two options and any other options the group might propose.  The group will look at how the different options could impact residents, businesses, and the environment in the affected areas.

The power companies have asked local, state and federal elected officials for recommendations for group members.  The power companies plan to extend invitations in mid-March.  Meetings will begin in April and probably go through October.  The public may attend and observe the meetings.  Dominion and NOVEC are also planning two public open house events during the study period.  The date, time and location of these meetings will be announced.

Dominion hopes to submit an application for the upgrades to the Virginia State Corporation Commission by the end of the year.  The SCC must approve plans for all transmission changes. If approved, Dominion hopes to complete the upgrades by May 2017.

For more information about the project or the public involvement process, visit http://www.dom.com/about/electric-transmission/warrenton .

NOVEC, headquartered in Manassas, Va., is a not-for-profit, vertically integrated corporation that supplies and distributes electricity and energy-related services to more than 150,000 customers in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, and Clarke counties, the Town of Clifton, and the City of Manassas Park. It is one of the largest electric companies of its kind in the nation.  For more information, visit http://www.novec.com or call 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500.

Dominion is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 27,500 megawatts of generation, 11,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline and 6,300 miles of electric transmission lines.  Dominion operates the nation’s largest natural gas storage system with 947 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves retail energy customers in 15 states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company’s website at http://www.dom.com    .                     

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