Bluefield — As Dominion Energy continues to evaluate whether a $2 billion renewable energy project will come to Tazewell County, Va., the company is also partnering with Appalachian Power (AEP) and InvestSWWA to advance energy storage technology in Southwest Virginia.

The Dominion and AEP partnership, announced recently, includes the Appalachian School of Law, Mountain Empire Community College and the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority.

“As a leader in renewable energy, we are excited by the opportunity and potential this presents to further diversify our energy mix,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “Last year, Appalachian produced approximately 2,400 gigawatt-hours of energy from wind- and hydro-power and as our investment in renewables grows, so will our need for energy storage.”

“With the greater proliferation of renewables, energy storage expansion will be a vital component in providing stability to our grid and support our customer’s needs,” Ed Baine, president of Dominion Energy Virginia, said in the announcement. 

Both Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy’s efforts in energy storage are bolstered by the Virginia General Assembly’s Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018 and the Virginia Clean Energy Act of 2020. In addition, both companies are focused on how energy storage can maximize the impact of solar energy generation.

Dominion said its solar fleet is currently the third-largest among utility holding companies in the nation and will build the largest offshore wind project in North America off the coast of Virginia Beach.

The company is also looking for new and innovative ways to store the renewable energy it produces to maintain reliable service to customers, including the coming construction of four Central Virginia energy storage projects recently approved by the State Corporation Commission. 

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The Tazewell County project, a pumped storage facility, if eventually given the green light, will be built on the south side of East River Mountain just a few miles west of Bluefield and would compliment the Bath County Pumped Storage Station described as the “largest battery in the world.”

Two reservoirs are used, on at the top of the mountain and one at the bottom, to generate electricity on demand by releasing water down tunnels to provide the power to rotate turbines in a powerhouse at the lower reservoir. Water is then pumped back to the upper reservoir.

Dominion has been evaluating the project for over two years to see if it is feasible. If given the green light, it would provide 2,000 construction jobs and take a total of about 10 years to be up and running.

Appalachian said in the announcement it has in recent years expanded its portfolio to include more renewables, and will use its expertise to research ways energy storage can improve electric reliability for customers and attract new business and industry to this region.

Under the Clean Energy Act, Appalachian Power is committed to providing customers with at least 600 megawatts of solar generation in Virginia by 2030. The company has signed contracts for 55 megawatts of solar, and earlier this year issued a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 200 megawatts of solar energy resources to include solar and an option for a battery storage system. Appalachian Power is currently in negotiations with developers on the proposals received through the RFP process.

Dominion Energy Virginia’s most recent long-term forecast calls for approximately 16,000 megawatts of solar in the state over the next 15 years to meet customers’ energy needs.

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Coalfield Strategies, LLC, a one-stop economic development firm driving new business investment to Southwest Virginia, will coordinate on-the-ground efforts with both utilities. The firm leads InvestSWVA, a public-private business attraction and marketing campaign launched under the umbrella of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, in addition to project development efforts for the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority.

According to the announcement, Coalfield Strategies will use recently completed market research and key site data collected from its portfolio of energy projects to define why the region is attractive to the energy storage industry.

“Virginia’s utilities are best positioned to drive the development and deployment of energy storage technology,” said Will Payne, Managing Partner of Coalfield Strategies and InvestSWVA lead. “Our team is excited to work with Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy in attracting industry prospects to Southwest Virginia, and we have assembled partners that demonstrate the region’s desire to redefine itself as the energy innovation capital of the East Coast.”

Coalfield Strategies will continue to collaborate with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, given the agency’s expertise in the region’s assets, including land, power and water. The firm will also tap two key statewide authorities in order to leverage industry relationships and expertise, including the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority and the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority.

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The announcement said energy projects to help establish the region’s credibility in attracting renewable, clean and zero-carbon projects include:

Project Innovation is developing the Southwest Virginia Energy Research Park, a first-of-its-kind operation in the United States that will host companies and entrepreneurs interested in proving and eventually commercializing their technology.

Project Energizer explores using pumped-storage hydro technology on a small, affordable scale and provides an opportunity for Southwest Virginia to leverage its topography as a competitive advantage.

Project Oasis highlights Southwest Virginia’s foothold in out-of-the-box thinking with the use of geothermal cooling technology with the billions of gallons of water collected in underground mines as a significant energy and cost-savings tool, not only for data centers but also for any industrial operation requiring robust power and water.

These projects benefit largely from the region’s considerable inventory of reclaimed surface mined properties plus adjacent underground mines. Congressman Morgan Griffith, R–VA9, a member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, has led efforts to secure over $30 million in funding from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program to support land reclamation and economic development activities throughout the region. This funding will continue to play a strategic role in marketing Southwest Virginia as a leader in the new energy economy.

 

Email: cboothe@bdtonline.com

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