WARM SPRINGS — Dominion Energy is eyeing two locations in Virginia’s coalfields region for the site of a new hydroelectric project that would bear similarities to the company’s Bath County facility.
The Bath County Pumped Storage Station, tucked away off a winding road in the northwest corner of the county near the West Virginia line, is the most powerful pumped storage station in the world with the ability to hold approximately 20 billion gallons of water and push 7.4 billion gallons of water to create energy.
Pumped storage facilities have two separate reservoirs. During peak electricity times, the water flows from the top reservoir to the bottom — powering turbines and creating electricity along the way.
Some have compared the facility to a battery because it’s ready when energy is needed.
Dominion’s coalfields site would be smaller but would operate the same way. Company officials are evaluating sites in Wise and Tazewell counties, and hope to move forward on one site or the other early next year.
Development and construction of a pumped storage station is no quick task. The Bath County facility took 14 years to complete and employed about 3,400 people at peak construction.
The company estimates construction of a site in far Southwest Virginia would create jobs for 2,083 people, with about 50 permanent jobs when complete. But planning, navigating state and federal regulations and construction could take at least a decade.
Lawmakers from the coalfields fast-tracked pumped storage facilities in their region last year. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed their legislation that would allow Dominion to petition the state to recover the costs of their investment once the project is complete.
The lawmakers hope the hydroelectric project will bring jobs and economic investment to the struggling region.