Corporate

Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV and Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV Projects

PJM is an independent Regional Transmission Organization that operates and plans the electric transmission system for Virginia and 12 other states. PJM issued a press release on May 17, 2012 announcing over $2 billion in transmission upgrades and new projects which were required to maintain transmission grid reliability. The Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV overhead line across the James River is one of these projects approved by the PJM Board of Managers (> view the PJM report). PJM’s approval of regional transmission improvements, including Dominion’s proposed project, is separate and independent from the state approval process necessary to construct facilities in Virginia.

On November 26, 2013, the SCC approved Dominion’s request to build the proposed new high voltage electric transmission lines from Surry County to the city of Hampton. The project approved includes an overhead crossing of the James River following the route labeled Variation 4. On December 16, 2013, Dominion petitioned the Commission for limited reconsideration or rehearing of the Order. An order granting reconsideration was approved by the SCC on Dec. 17, 2013. On Feb. 28, 2014, the SCC issued Order Amending Certificates, authorizing Dominion's request to construct the Certificated Project following Variation 1. Refer to SCC Approval Process below for more information.

Project Details

Route Map
Photo Simulations

Photo simulations are provided by Truescape. Simulations of the proposed transmission structures are available below.

The individual simulations below are representative examples. View the complete package of simulations provided with the SCC application, Appendix C.

Simulations for the proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV route (view an overview)

Simulations for the proposed Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV route (view an overview)

Project Description

APPROVED: Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV Line - 20.2 miles: all existing, cleared corridor

  • From the approved Skiffes Creek Switching Station south to the existing Whealton Substation, Dominion plans to reconfigure the existing transmission lines and towers in order to accommodate a new 230,000 volt (230kV) line. Final engineering has not been completed and several different structure types are being considered. This sample 230kV structure diagram represents preliminary engineering for the corridor just north of the Whealton Substation. Additional easements will not be required to accommodate this 230kV line.

APPROVED: Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV Line – 8.0 miles total: approximately 1.5 miles on Dominion land at Surry Power Station in Surry County, 4.1 miles overhead across the James River, and 2.3 miles on land in southern James City County.  Of this 2.3 miles, approximately 1.7 miles will utilize existing Dominion right-of-way, although the easement will need to be expanded. This sample 500kV structure diagram represents preliminary engineering for the typical towers proposed across the James River (height averages 160’). This diagram illustrates one of the four towers proposed on each side of the two shipping channels (heights range from 275’-295’).

Skiffes Creek Switching Station – Build and operate a new switching station on land already acquired (near the I-64 corridor) in southern James City County.

Project Need and Benefits

Studies conducted by the company and PJM initially identified the proposed project as needed to address thermal overloadings, voltage problems and right-of-way outages projected to occur beginning in the summer of 2019. The key driver for accelerating this proposed transmission line project is the retirement of the Yorktown Power Station. More information on generation retirements can be found in the 2012 Integrated Resource Plan.

Dominion’s new line projects will:

  • Supply needed capacity to serve the local area and our nation’s critical military facilities,
  • Support local growth and economic development in central and eastern Virginia,
  • Comply with mandatory NERC Reliability Standards, and
  • Provide reliability improvements for fewer service interruptions and shorter durations when an outage does occur.
Project Timeline
  • Winter 2011/2012 – Community outreach and multiple, publicly-advertised "Open House Meetings" held to solicit community input on proposed projects
  • June 2012 – Filed application with Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC)
  • Winter 2013/2014 – Initiate pre-construction activities and surveys
  • Spring 2014 – Begin construction associated with transmission project in upland areas on Surry Power Station property
  • June 2014 – Pending necessary approvals, begin construction of new transmission facilities along SCC approved route
  • December 2015 – Energize completed transmission lines
SCC Approval Process

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is responsible for determining the need, route and environmental impact of transmission lines at 138 kV and above in Virginia. To learn more about this process, view our SCC process map.

  • Dominion filed an application with the SCC on June 11, 2012.

  • The SCC Staff Report (2 volumes, 12 parts) for Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV and Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV Projects was released Friday, January 11, 2013. Staff witnesses John Chiles and Wayne McCoy filed testimony in the case and provided their recommendations in the report. The Staff consultants agree the Project adequately addresses the Company’s identified reliability needs and support the Company’s proposed routes, including a 500kV line overhead line across the James River.

  • SCC held public hearings on October 24, 2012  in Williamsburg and January 10, 2013 in Richmond for the purpose of receiving testimony from members of the public and evidence related to the Application from the Company, any respondents, and the Commission's Staff.

  • On January 30, 2013, the SCC issued an order including a Revised Hearing Schedule.

  • Dominion filed Rebuttal Testimony with the SCC on March 14, 2013. The Additional Analyses continue to show the Company’s proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek overhead 500 kV line is the best, most cost effective, viable solution for meeting the needs of the area.
    • Rebuttal – Volume I: Testimony and Exhibits
    • Rebuttal – Volume 2: Testimony and Exhibits, continued
    • Rebuttal – Volume 3: Schedules and Studies 1-6Ca (pages 3-27 contain summary information)
    • Rebuttal – Volume 4: Schedules and Studies 7A-8 (pages 3-27 contain summary information)
    • Rebuttal – Volume 5: Schedules and Studies 9-13C (pages 3-27 contain summary information)
    • Rebuttal – Volume 6: Schedules and Studies 14A-26a (pages 3-27 contain summary information)
  • The SCC evidentiary hearing began on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Richmond.

  • The Hearing Examiner’s Report was filed on August 2, 2013.
    • In the Report, the Mr. Skirpan recommended approval of the proposed project substantially as proposed. He affirmed the need for the project overall and the need in particular for the 500 kV overhead crossing of the James River.

  • On November 26, 2013, the SCC approved Dominion’s request to build the proposed new high voltage electric transmission lines from Surry County to the city of Hampton. The project approved includes an overhead crossing of the James River. (> View the final order.)

  • On December 16, 2013, Dominion filed a petition with the Commission for limited reconsideration or rehearing of the Order which approved ‘Variation 4’ as the route for the 500kV line. An order granting reconsideration was approved by the SCC on Dec. 17, 2013.

  • On Feb. 28, 2014, the SCC approved an Order Amending Certificates of public convenience and necessity, authorizing Dominion to construct the Certificated Project with Variation 1.

View documents related to Case Number PUE-2012-00029 as presented on the SCC web site. In addition, interested parties may also comment directly to the SCC by sending an email to sccinfo@scc.virginia.gov.

Contact Us

Contact us if you have questions about the Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV and Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV projects, or call us toll free at 1-888-291-0190.

Questions and Answers

When will Dominion receive the necessary permit from the Army Corps of Engineers?

The Army Corps of Engineers (COE) has been reviewing Dominion's proposed project routes since August 2013. These routes have since then been approved by the Virginia SCC. While it remains uncertain exactly if/when the COE will approve the project, Dominion anticipates receiving all necessary permits to begin construction by June 2014.

Why did Dominion file a Petition for Reconsideration or Rehearing with the SCC on December 16, 2013?

Dominion welcomed the November 26, 2013 SCC approval of Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV, Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV, and Skiffes Creek Switching Station which confirmed that construction of all of project facilities is required. Dominion has endeavored to work with the James City County Economic Development Authority (EDA) toward obtaining an easement following Variation 4, the route approved by the SCC. To date, after continuous efforts to work with the EDA, no right-of-way agreement has been reached. Without the reconsideration and relief, the Company believes it will be unable to plan and execute the project with the clear certainty and swiftness needed.

What were the main factors in the 500kV route selection of the Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal across the James River versus the Chickahominy-Skiffes Creek alternative?

Several factors were considered during the routing analysis:

  • The Surry-Skiffes Creek proposed line (7.42 miles) is substantially shorter compared to the Chickahominy Alternative (37.89 miles) 
  • The Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal would require the permanent clearing of a significantly smaller amount of forested wetlands than the Chickahominy Alternative.
  • The Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal would require the clearing of significantly less forested land than the Chickahominy Alternative.
  • Although both alternatives would utilize existing Dominion transmission line right-of-way, the Chickahominy Alternative would cross through somewhat more developed areas and for greater lengths than the Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal, resulting in the Chickahominy Alternative crossing within 500 feet of 1,129 homes, while the Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal would only cross within 500 feet of 84 homes.
  • Directly related to length difference between the two routes, a primary advantage of the Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal is that it would cross and affect much less private lands (3.75 miles) compared to 28.53 miles of private lands that would be crossed by the Chickahominy Alternative.
  • The Surry-Skiffes Creek proposal cost is approximately $55 million dollars less (approximately $60 million compared to $115 million) than the Chickahominy-Skiffes Creek alternative.
Does Dominion have any other electric transmission lines in service that cross the James River?

Yes, there are nine (9) crossings of high-voltage power lines across the James River, and two of these lines are described below.

Approximately 17 miles downstream from Surry, Dominion operates a double circuit 230kV line (Line number 214 between Surry & Winchester and Line 263 between Chuckatuck & Newport News) west of the James River Bridge at VA Route 17. The line was energized in 1969. There are 18 towers that are located in the river, ranging from 165' to 290' in height overall, which includes 15-foot tall foundations.

Approximately 35 miles upstream Dominion also operates a 500kV line from Surry to Chickahominy which is located near Lawrence Lewis, Jr. Park. The line was energized in 1971. There are 2 towers that are located in the river that are 415' in height.

Why is Dominion proposing to build an overhead line across the James River? Why not construct an underwater line as with the Hayes-Yorktown project crossing the York River?

A 500kV is not considered to be a viable underground alternative.  Underground lines at 500 kV have only been installed in a few places around the world and have been limited to 1000-1200 MVA. None has been installed with the minimum required 2000 MVA capacity of the Surry-Skiffes Creek 500 kV line. The only 500 kV underground in the U.S. is a short power station connector installed between a hydro electric generation plant and an adjacent switchyard.  This underground installation is currently being replaced with overhead facilities due to reliability concerns with the underground cables.

Since 500kV is not a viable underground alternative, could 230kV line(s) be installed, either overhead or underground, instead of the proposed 500kV line?

Dominion has evaluated multiple 230 kV alternatives, to include a single 230 kV circuit in both an overhead and underground configuration, as well as multiple 230 kV circuits in overhead and underground configurations. None of these 230 kV alternatives resolved all of the identified NERC criteria violations.

Other considerations associated with the 230 kV alternatives include the following:

  • If overhead, 230kV structures capable of holding multiple circuits would be taller, and have larger foundations, than single-circuit 500kV structures.
  • If underground, initial estimates for underwater transmission line facilities of this magnitude (i.e., 230 kV double circuit configuration with each circuit capable of 1000 MVA) would range from $310-$390 million as opposed to a single circuit, overhead 500kV transmission line estimate of approximately $60 million. 

Additionally, 230kV alternatives are not feasible because they raise long-term reliability concerns:

  • Constructing a new 230 kV line to Skiffes Creek from Surry, in the South Hampton Roads Load Area, would increase the load on the already stressed 230 kV transmission system in South Hampton Roads, which is also generation deficient and is projected in 2016 to have only enough generation capacity to serve 43% of the local load. In order to relieve the stress on the 230 kV transmission system to allow for a 230 kV option, significant infrastructure improvements in the South Hampton Roads area would have to be implemented. The proposed 500 kV Surry-Skiffes Creek line, in contrast, would not strain the area’s 230 kV transmission system but rather would permit the 500 kV system to support the transfer of bulk power into both North and South Hampton Roads Load Areas and provide a more robust and economical solution compared to merely shifting load between two generation deficient load areas on the 230 kV system.
  • Constructing a new double-circuit 230kV alternative would require a reconfiguration of the 500 kV and 230 kV transmission facilities between Surry Power Station and Surry Switching Station and would restrict, if not preclude, the Company’s ability to extend an additional 500 kV line to the south out of Surry Power Station in the future.

Dominion considered both an underwater and a hybrid of underwater/overhead construction options but neither of these will allow time to complete the project by the needed date of mid-2015.

Explain what "MVA" means.

MVA stands for “megavolt-amps.” Almost all bulk electric power in the United States is generated, transported and consumed in an alternating current (AC) network. Elements of AC systems produce and consume two kinds of power: real power (measured in watts or MW) and reactive power (measured in volt-amperes reactive, or MVAR). Real power accomplishes useful work (e.g., running motors and lighting lamps). Reactive power supports the voltages that must be controlled for system reliability. Total or apparent power is a combination of both MW and MVAR (measured in MVA). When talking about transmission capacity, it is referred to as MVA or total line capability for transporting the total power.

Please explain Virginia SB 645, the 2010 law regarding underground transmission lines.

SB 645 passed 3/5/2010 and prohibits the State Corporation Commission from approving an agreement between a local governing body and an electric utility for the underground installation of an electric transmission line of at least 150 kilovolts if a practicably feasible overhead alternative exists, unless all localities in which the underground segment of the line passes request that the line be installed underground in accordance with Va. Code 15.2-2404. If the agreement is approved by the State Corporation Commission, such localities must create special tax districts to cover the incremental costs of the underground construction in accordance with Va. Code 15.2-2404.

Are the Skiffes Creek 500kV and 230kV line projects and Skiffes Creek Switching Station still necessary considering the announcement of the new Brunswick County Power Station, scheduled to be in service by summer 2016?

Yes. Generation plants provide necessary power and transmission lines deliver the power where needed. The proposed Skiffes Creek transmission projects are required to be in service by 2015 to transmit power to the north Hampton Roads area when Yorktown Power Station is retired. The recently announced Brunswick County Power Station, in the Southside region, is scheduled to be in service by summer 2016 and will help replace the capacity lost when Yorktown and Chesapeake Energy Center are retired. System upgrades and additional transmission lines still will be needed to transmit the power generated from the Brunswick County Power Station to the regional electric grid and into Hampton Roads.

How are transmission lines paid for, by Dominion or by its customers?

PJM allocates the cost of transmission projects that it approves for inclusion in its Regional Transmission Expansion Plan ("RTEP") to transmission zones. Generally, the 500 kV and above RTEP projects costs are socialized across transmission zones and costs of lower voltage projects are allocated to transmission zones based on power flow studies. Dominion pays a share of the PJM RTEP projects costs allocated to the Dominion zone and it recovers those costs from most of its 2.4 million customers.

What is an easement? Do I still own my property?

Easement agreements (also referred to as "right-of-way agreements") provide Dominion with a specified set of property rights needed to construct, operate and maintain electric facilities across real property. At the time the easement is acquired by Dominion land owners are compensated based on the fair-market value of the property acquired for the easement and any damages to the remainder of the property outside the easement area. The property owner(s) still own(s) the land but the easement rights granted to Dominion are perpetual and run with the title to the land.

For what purpose were the easements in Charles City and James City counties obtained?

Dominion acquired the easements from Chickahominy to Skiffes Creek with the intention to develop electric transmission infrastructure. The easement documents clarify Dominion’s right to proceed with "the construction, operation and maintenance of one or more lines of poles, towers or structures, together with all wires, attachments, equipment, accessories and appurtenances desirable in connection therewith, for the purpose of transmitting or distributing electric power." Acquisition of right-of-way easements through voluntary negotiation does not require the approval of any governmental body.

How will the completion of this project benefit me as a resident?

Due to the interconnected nature of the electric transmission grid, all power users in the area rely on Dominion's transmission infrastructure to deliver reliable power. The new 500 kV and 230 kV lines will provide increased operational flexibility and greater system reliability. As an area resident, this means fewer outages, and shorter durations should an outage occur. Additionally, the localities ultimately crossed by these lines will each benefit from the increased property tax revenues paid by Dominion if ordered by the SCC to build and operate the proposed electric transmission facilities.

Looking at a map of potential routes for the 500kV line, a corridor has already been cleared with existing transmission lines between the Chickahominy Substation and the Lightfoot Substation. Why doesn’t Dominion use that route instead of considering removal of vegetation on the uncleared easements?

As part of the SCC application process, Dominion is obligated to consider and study all viable corridors. An engineering analysis indicates that using the corridor in New Kent County is not a viable option because collocating structures west of Lanexa Substation would subject the Company and its customers to the risk of cascading outages for a significant portion of its transmission system.

Dominion's routing analysis is available in the application Dominion filed with the SCC on June 11, 2012. Ultimately, the SCC will make the final decision as to where Dominion is required to build.

What will be the environmental impact of construction of the line and what regulatory requirements does Dominion adhere to?

As part of the SCC application, Dominion completes an evaluation of potential environmental, cultural, and historical impacts of the project. Dominion works with many local and state agencies to complete these evaluations and reasonably mitigate any impacts. The company also submits annual Erosion and Sedimentation (E&S) Control Specifications and an anticipated list of transmission line projects for the construction and maintenance of transmission lines to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for review and approval. This project will be included in the annual submittal for approval prior to construction. Our contractors receive copies of the E&S specifications and any additional permit conditions prior to construction and are directed to meet any requirements. The right-of-way will be rehabilitated when construction is complete.

Our enterprise-wide environmental report describes our commitment to responsible stewardship of natural resources and provides a wealth of information on environmental management and performance. We also invite you to read our Corporate Environmental Policy and our Greenhouse Gas report.

The company’s construction of new transmission line facilities complies with the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act (CBPA) in accordance with 9VAC10-20-150.  This Virginia Administrative Code provision provides that construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of electric transmission lines comply  with Virginia’s regulations implementing the CBPA if such construction, installation, operation and maintenance adhere to any one of the following:

(i) regulations promulgated pursuant to the Erosion and Sediment Control Law (§10.1-560 et seq. of the Code of Virginia) and the Stormwater Management Act (§10.1-603.1 et seq. of the Code of Virginia),

(ii) an erosion and sediment control plan and a stormwater management plan approved by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, or

(iii) local water quality protection criteria at least as stringent as the above state requirements.

The company adheres to both items (i) and (ii) by complying with annual Erosion and Sedimentation Control Specifications for the construction and maintenance of transmission lines as reviewed and approved annually by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  In addition, the company obtains a Virginia Storm Water Protection permit for each project and we follow required inspection and recordation procedures during construction, which in many cases exceeds CBPA standards. We also make use of matting systems which reduce or eliminate the disturbance to sensitive wetland ecosystems.  For more information visit the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality website on the CBPA.

 

What are the costs associated with the project?

The estimated total cost of the approved project is approximately $155 million.

Will property owners be compensated when Dominion utilizes the existing easements?

Dominion compensates property owners only at the time a new easement is acquired.

  • If the SCC approves the Surry-Skiffes Creek 500kV route, property owners along the corridor will be compensated for any new easements required.
  • Initial studies indicate no need to expand the width of the existing right-of-way corridor and already-obtained easements to accommodate the alternative Chickahominy-Skiffes Creek 500kV and proposed Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230kV lines.

Property owners of record when the easements were first acquired were compensated and the easements were filed with county/city records departments.

For a copy of the easement that covers your property, contact your local county or city land records office. Dominion can also provide you with a copy. Email your request to powerline@dom.com with "Easement request" in the subject line. Allow up to six weeks for processing. For more information regarding Dominion easements, visit our website Right-of-Way page.

How can I learn more about the transmission system, and why new infrastructure is needed?
  • The 21st Century Grid: This July 2010 article from National Geographic magazine describes the electric transmission system, or “grid,” and our modern day energy challenge.
  • The modern electric grid receives power from many sources and types of generation including wind, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric and others. There is not a one-to-one connection between any fuel source and customer. Get more information on how the grid works.
  • Learn how the electric grid operates and how power gets to your home.
  • Check out the interactive simulations available on the Department of Energy website. You can also see how a few simple changes at home can lower your own consumption - and your bill!
  • So where is all the power going? Find out who the big users are on an information-packed site from Virginia’s State Corporation Commission.
What other investments has Dominion made to improve transmission reliability in the Hampton Roads area?

Dominion’s recent and near-term investments in Hampton Roads electric transmission infrastructure total over $482 million. They include:

Additional Reliability Projects

  • $175M to be invested in reliability projects in the Hampton Roads area over the next 4 years.
Should I be concerned about Electric and Magnetic Fields?

Dominion is sensitive to public concern about possible health effects from exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF). Dominion includes data on the levels of both electric and magnetic fields produced by proposed facilities in all applications submitted with the SCC. We continually monitor EMF research and speak to our customers and employees regularly to share the latest information available.

The Virginia SCC, which regulates the construction and operation of electric transmission lines of 138kV and above, considers EMF in every application. Hearing Examiner’s remarks from recent proceedings are below.

  • March 23, 2009 Beaumeade-NIVO (Case Number PUE-2008-00063) Report of Michael D. Thomas, Hearing Examiner concludes that "… electric transmission line electromagnetic fields do not represent a human health hazard.”
  • May 4, 2010 Hayes-Yorktown (Case Number PUE-2009-00049) Report of Deborah V. Ellenberg, Chief Hearing Examiner, states, “I find that EMF has not been identified as a carcinogen for human beings despite extensive study over many years, and there is, therefore, no basis on which to prohibit the Company from authorizing appropriate uses of its right-of-way.”
  • August 23, 2011 Hollymead (Case Number PUE-2011-00015) Report of Michael D. Thomas, Hearing Examiner, states, “The proposed facilities do not represent a hazard to human health, which finding is consistent with the Virginia Department of Health’s report entitled Monitoring of Ongoing Research on the Health Effects of High Voltage Transmission Lines (Final Report) dated October 31, 2000.”

The Virginia Department of Health in its final report evaluating EMF research concluded:

"Based on the review and analysis of the exhaustive literature review and other research projects completed under the EMF-RAPID program, the Virginia Department of Health is of the opinion that there is no conclusive and convincing evidence that exposure to extremely low frequency EMF emanated from nearby high voltage transmission lines is causally associated with an increased incidence of cancer or other detrimental health effects in humans. Even if it is assumed that there is an increased risk of cancer as implied in some epidemiologic studies, the empirical relative risk appears to be fairly small in magnitude and the observed association appears to be tenuous. The studies published in the literature lack clear demonstration of a cause and effect relationship as well as a definitive dose-response gradient."

Additional information:

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