Warrenton Wheeler Gainesville 230 kV Reliability Project

UPDATE: Dominion Filed SCC Application, Recommending Option C-1.1

On March 31, 2014, Dominion filed its SCC application for the Warrenton Wheeler Gainesville 230kV Reliability Project, recommending the C-1.1 route which offers the best electrical solution with fewer total impacts than other routes considered. Dominion continues to work with the localities and residents to further reduce impacts.

Dominion and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) have identified current or future reliability issues associated with the Warrenton Substation in Fauquier County, and the Wheeler and Gainesville Substations in Prince William County.  By 2017, our capacity planning studies show that Dominion must expand its facilities to continue to serve the area reliably and comply with the standards maintained by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

After more than a year of studies, Dominion has evaluated several different electric transmission options that could resolve the reliability issues. On March 31, 2014, Dominion filed an application with the State Corporation Commission for approval to rebuild the existing Warrenton line and build new facilities to serve Prince William County.

Project Details

Project Area Maps
Need For The Project

The need for the project is driven by reliability standards for meeting peak demand. A key factor in evaluating the load limitation on a radial (served by one source) transmission line, such as the Warrenton or Wheeler lines, is the distribution load that can be switched to circuits served from other sources. Dominion reliability guidelines, driven by mandatory NERC standards, dictate that load on radial transmission lines without an alternate supply should be limited to approximately 100 megawatts (MW). The load on the existing Warrenton line is projected to exceed 100 MW by 2017. NOVEC's line, while not subject to the same NERC standards, is already exceeding this same 100 MW threshold. To maintain future reliability for its customers, NOVEC is seeking a second source of power. Providing a second, separate source of power to Wheeler will also help relieve the Gainesville Substation, which is also a reliability concern. The in-service target date for this project is spring of 2017.

This growth is occurring in areas served by Dominion, NOVEC, and Rappahannock Electrical Cooperative (REC). REC relies on this transmission line as its primary source of power to serve its customers in this area. NOVEC is also served by Dominion's transmission system. Dominion is obligated to supply power to its new and existing customers, including REC and NOVEC. Conservation measures and demand-side management can reduce demand growth rates, but Dominion does not expect these measures to be sufficient to eliminate the need altogether. Dominion is obligated to be prepared to satisfy the load requirements as they occur and to meet reliability standards.

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.

On March 31, 2014, Dominion filed a SCC application for the Warrenton Wheeler Gainesville 230 kV Reliability Project (> view volumes here).

Documents related to the case are made available to the public on the SCC Docket Search section of the SCC web site,

To learn more about this process, view our SCC process map.

Project Timeline
  • 2013 – February: Dominion and NOVEC advise local and state elected officials
  • 2013 – April: Dominion and NOVEC begin work with a Community Advisory Group (additional information below)
  • 2013 – September and November: Public Open House events
  • 2014 – March 31: Dominion Files SCC Application
  • 2014 – Spring: SCC process for gathering public comments (updates will be posted here once the SCC schedule is available)
  • 2015 –Fall: Pre-construction activities including surveying, construction access roads and erosion and sediment controls
  • 2016 – Spring: Construction begins
  • 2017 - May: Project completion; new line(s) to be energized
Community Involvement

Dominion and NOVEC have been committed to consulting with stakeholders and the public during the planning and route development process for the proposed Warrenton Wheeler Gainesville 230 kV Reliability Project.

The utilities employed a Community Engagement Plan with the goal of obtaining input from stakeholders and the public through open, transparent and comprehensive outreach. Input and feedback received during this process assisted Dominion in the identification of feasible route options for assessment and inclusion in an application to the Virginia State Corporation Commission, filed March 31, 2014.

Dominion hired Natural Resource Group, an environmental and public affairs firm, to help develop and facilitate a comprehensive Community Advisory Group process. With NRG’s help, Dominion and NOVEC organized a series of meetings with community participants to review the project’s purpose and need, discuss routing constraints and opportunities, and plan for broader community feedback through two open houses for the public.

Our Community Engagement Plan consisted of four elements:

  • Community leader outreach – meetings with elected officials and community leaders.
  • Community Advisory Group (CAG) – facilitated small group meetings with identified local representatives
  • Open houses - large exhibit-style events that are advertised and open to the public
  • Communications – All documents, presentations, materials and meeting notes will be posted to this project website. The CAG meetings are also posted on the website and the public is welcome to attend and observe. Project neighbors will be notified by direct mail, in addition to ads in local papers.

Schedule of CAG Activities

2013 – Feb. 28 Project Overview shared with local elected officials, community leaders, media
View the Presentation 
2013 – Feb. 28 Media: Inside Nova introduces new project 
2013 – March 1 Media: FauquierNow introduces new project 
2013 – early March Community leader outreach to solicit CAG participants
2013 – March 5 Media: Fauquier Times-Democrat introduces new project 
2013 – March 5 Media: Bull Run Observer introduces new project 
2013 – March 20 Informational materials mailed to CAG participants
2013 – April 3 CAG Meeting #1: Background Workshop: View the presentation
- View Agenda and Materials discussed during the meeting
- Read a meeting summary 
2013 – April 3 Media: FauquierNow article reviews first CAG meeting 
2013 – April 5 Media: Fauquier Times-Democrat article reviews first CAG meeting 
2013 – April 23 Project overview shared with Southern Fauquier Business Owners Association
> View the Presentation 
2013 – April 25 CAG Meeting #2: Explore Route Selection Process
View Parking Lot Review presentation
- Read the meeting summary
2013 – April 26  Media: FauquierNow article reviews second CAG meeting 
2013 – May 1 Media: Fauquier Times-Democrat article reviews second CAG meeting
2013 – May 16 Optional CAG Information Session
- View the background information
- View the Parking Lot questions and answers
- View the meeting summary
2013 – May 22 Media: Fauquier Times-Democrat article reviews May 16 information session 
2013 – June 3 Project overview shared with City of Manassas Council
View the presentation 
2013 – June 6

Project overview shared with Prince William Chamber Board of Directors
View the presentation 

2013 – June 6 CAG Meeting #3: Route Exploration: Options A and B
View the agenda
View the meeting summary
Note: the constraint maps reviewed during the third CAG meeting continued to be refined and have been added to the website under the forth meeting, below.
2013 – June 12 Media: Fauquier Times-Democrat article reviews third CAG meeting
2013 – July 17 Presentation to Prince William Architectural Board and Historical Commission
View the Presentation 
2013 – July 18 Presentation to the Fauquier Chamber Economic Development Committee
View the Presentation 
2013 – Aug. 27 CAG Meeting #4: Review of all options, route refinement
- View the Update presentation with overview route maps.
- View the finalized constraint maps.
- View structure simulations.
- View the meeting summary.
2013 – Sept. 16, 19, 25

Open House: Public feedback on project development. View the different displays below:

Need for the Project
Structure Types
- Structure Simulations (Option A, C1, C2, single circuit  |  Options B & C, double circuit) 
Rebuild Sequence
Construction Practices
Construction Video
Forestry Management
Community Involvement
Community Advisory Group
State Corporation Commission Approval Process 

2013 – Oct. 28

CAG Meeting #5: Reviewing feedback, further route refinements
View the consolidated feedback from CAG
View the consolidated feedback from the public open house events
View an environmental feature comparison table for Option A routes
Learn more about the SCC approval process
View the meeting summary 

2013 – Nov. 20

CAG Meeting #6: Final Review
View the agenda and discussion items 
View the meeting summary 

2013 – Nov. 20-21 Open House: Public feedback on project proposal. All displays listed (above) for the September open houses were available, plus:
Structure diagram for C1 and C2
Photo simulations of the proposed structures along A, B and C routes (updated Jan. 17, 2014)
New overview map for overhead and underground A routes – still not recommended at this time
View all consolidated public feedback on the project 
Contact Us

Contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Warrenton Wheeler Gainesville 230kV Reliability Project.

Questions and Answers

Why is this project needed?

The need for the Warrenton Wheeler 230 kV project is driven by reliability standards for meeting peak demand. By 2017, planning studies show that the peak load on the existing Warrenton line will surpass the 100 megawatt (MW) criteria, creating a service reliability risk and violations of the federally mandated NERC Reliability Standards. NOVEC’s line, while not subject to the same NERC Standards, is already exceeding this same 100 MW threshold and requires a second source of power. Dominion’s Gainesville Substation already exceeds a 300 MW criteria limit for that facility. These limits are in place to help protect service reliability for customers in the event of an emergency.

What happens if we do nothing?

The residential consumers, commercial and industrial consumers, and government facilities fed from these transmission lines are at risk for prolonged interruption of electric service. Following the severe blackout of 2003, the Reliability Standards became enforceable by an independent authority put in place by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. These standards are designed, and enforced, to ensure that utilities cooperate to reduce risk – to the system and for customers.

Can't conservation and better efficiency avoid the need for new infrastructure?

Conservation measures, greater efficiency and demand-side management can reduce demand growth rates, but Dominion does not expect these measures to be sufficient to eliminate the need altogether and is obligated to be prepared to satisfy the load requirements as they occur.

Can't you upgrade the existing distribution system to avoid building a new transmission line?

There are no distribution upgrades that would resolve the projected overloads.

How are the routes chosen?

Routing a linear facility such as a transmission line involves balancing many considerations. Dominion and NRG will conduct a rigorous routing process and will establish several criteria to facilitate a comparison among the potential routes identified. The evaluation will include a quantitative analysis based on these routing criteria as well as consideration of more subjective or qualitative factors gleaned from site visits and discussions with property owners and other key stakeholders.

How does Dominion acquire new right-of-way?

Prior to building transmission lines requiring new right-of-way, Dominion acquires perpetual rights from the owners of properties along the approved route to construct, operate and maintain electric lines across private land.  An easement is obtained by Dominion from the property owner in the form of Dominion’s standard right-of-way agreement and the document is recorded in the land records of the County or City where the property is located.

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

Yes, the property owner still owns the land. Easement agreements provide Dominion with a specified set of rights needed to construct, operate and maintain electric facilities across private land.

How will property owners be compensated?

Dominion uses an appraiser to determine the fair market value of the land and the just compensation to which property owners are entitled for the property rights sought by Dominion. The appraisals are then used as the basis for the offers that Dominion makes to the property owners. Property owners will be requested to respond to the offer in a specified number of days.

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

For area residents and businesses, improved reliability means fewer outages and shorter durations when outages do occur. The different alternatives being evaluated have different advantages and disadvantages that will have to be carefully weighed. Generally, providing a second line to serve the Warrenton and Wheeler substations will provide redundancy, reducing risk and improving reliability for the future.

I’m a NOVEC member. How does a Dominion transmission project benefit me?

Due to the interconnected nature of the electric transmission grid, all NOVEC customers, as well as Rappahannock Electric Cooperative customers, rely on Dominion's transmission infrastructure to deliver reliable power.

Can Dominion build a portion or the entire line underground?

When preparing the application to be filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), Dominion typically considers many alternatives including underground.

Overhead (OH) transmission lines have proven to be the best choice for providing safe, reliable and economical energy to our customers. Underground transmission lines are not as desirable from an operational point of view. The duration of outages for underground transmission lines is significantly greater compared to overhead lines due to the complexities of locating failures and facilitating repairs. Additionally, labor and material costs for the installation of a 230 kV underground transmission line would significantly more expensive than an overhead option.

Under newly enacted Virginia SB 645, localities can request the SCC to approve an agreement with the utility to have a new transmission line constructed underground when there is a feasible overhead alternative but must create special tax districts to impose and collect local tax revenue to cover the incremental costs of the underground construction.

In the end, the SCC will make the final decision as to what Dominion is required to build.

Where can I obtain more information on the project’s SCC application?

The Virginia State Corporation Commission may issue dates for a public hearing in the local area, with an evidentiary hearing in Richmond thereafter. Citizens are encouraged to participate in the process and provide input. The SCC maintains copies of all documents related to the case. Updates about the status of the application can be found on the SCC website at

To learn more about this process, view our SCC process map.

Will Dominion repair damage due to construction?

Yes. The company, at its expense, will repair any private roads damaged by Dominion or its contractors during construction of the line or during future maintenance. In addition, we will reimburse property owners for crop damage and repair or replace fences or gates if they are damaged.

What will be the environmental impact of construction of the line?

 As part of the SCC application, Dominion completes an evaluation of potential environmental, cultural, and historical impacts of the Warrenton Wheeler Gainesville 230kV Reliability Project. Dominion works with many local and state agencies to complete these evaluations and 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. For program year 2014, 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.

How will tree clearing be handled for the construction of this new line?

Property owners will be notified before construction clearing begins.

Prior to building a new power line, the right-of-way must be cleared to allow construction activities and eventual transmission line operation that is safe and reliable. Existing low-growing vegetation may be left in place if it does not interfere with construction activities. Additionally, trees located outside of the right-of-way which are tall enough to potentially impact the transmission line may also be removed. These trees are commonly referred as danger trees; view a diagram of typical danger tree clearances.

Trees are cut to be no more than 3 inches above ground level. In the right-of-way, debris that is adjacent to homes will be disposed of by chipping or removal. In other more rural areas, debris may be mulched or chipped as practicable. Clearing will be accomplished by hand in wetland areas and within 100 feet of streams. Care will be taken not to leave debris in streams or wetland areas. Matting will be used for heavy equipment in these areas. Erosion control devices will be used on an ongoing basis during all clearing activities.

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:

How can I learn more about the electric transmission system?
  • The 21st Century Grid: This July 2010 article from National Geographic describes the electric grid and our modern day energy challenge.
  • The modern "electric grid," referring to the power lines that supply your home with electricity, 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.
  • Dominion recently launched a Green Power initiative that you might be interested in reviewing. You also can learn about Dominion’s other Conservation Programs.
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