Despite slower power forecast, Skiffes line needed, grid operator says
Despite revised forecasts showing much slower growth in electricity use in the decade to come, Dominion Virginia Power could still run into problems ensuring reliable supply if it can’t beef up its high voltage connections on the Peninsula with a line across the James River, the manager of the 13-state regional power grid serving Virginia says.
And a new set of alternatives to Dominion’s proposed 500 kilovolt line from Surry County to Skiffes Creek in James City County suggested by the National Trust for Historic Preservation won’t address several power supply trouble spots, that manager, PJM Interconnection, told the Army Corps of Engineers.
The line can’t be built unless the Corps approves. Dominion and PJM say the line is needed because the utility must shut down its two aging coal-fired generating units at Yorktown this spring to meet new federal limits on emissions of mercury and other toxic gases. Without those units, high voltage lines and equipment are at risk of becoming overloaded, triggering blackouts.
Dominion, the State Corporation Commission and PJM say the transmission line across the James is the most efficient way to prevent blackouts.
But the National Trust, joined by other preservation and environmental groups, said the line would permanently disfigure the James River at Jamestown, which the trust has named as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the United States.
The trust proposed four alternatives to the Surry-Skiffes Creek line in October.
In a letter to the Corps earlier this month PJM vice president Steven Herling said the grid manager’s reviews found that none would fix all supply challenges the Peninsula faces.
National Trust officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Herling said the Surry-Skiffes Creek line is still needed even though its forecasts for power demand in Dominion’s territory, which covers about two thirds of Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, shows much slower growth than earlier forecasts. Critics of the power line project have argued that Dominion’s forecasts for power demand were unrealistically high.