Dominion’s plan for life after coal plant closure: Controlled blackouts

YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY) — Planned and purposeful power outages on the Peninsula could be a solution to energy issues generated by a closing power plant.

Yorktown’s coal power plant has provided the Peninsula power for years. It’s also given Dominion Virginia Power a backup plan for massive outages. But, it will close in April.

“It has put the Peninsula in a tenuous situation,” Dominion Power spokesperson Bonita Billingsley-Harris said.

Basically, the Peninsula’s energy will be at risk on peak usage days — those extremely cold days or hot days where usage puts the power supply on edge.

“On those days, if a certain number of conditions happen that cause damage to the system, then we could be in a situation on the Peninsula we want to avoid,” Billingsley-Harris said.

She means a massive blackout. To avoid that, Dominion will control where power is lost by sectioning off the Peninsula.

“We will have to flip switches and it could drop as many as 150,000 customers with or without notice in order to make sure it doesn’t get worse,” Billingsley-Harris said.

Billingsley-Harris stresses the controlled blackouts will rotate and are for the worst case scenario situations. In addition, Dominion will step up inspections on substations and check the circuits.

So what is the long term solution? Billingsley-Harris said a new, high-powered transmission line could relieve the strain.

“That’s why we came up with the Skiffes Creek Transmission plan because it is the best, most efficient, low-cost way to provide long term power to the Peninsula,” she said.

That’s a line that would cross the James River. It’s not been started. One of those reasons: Its location.

The line would cross near historic Jamestown. Groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Save the James have argued against it.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been advocating against construction of a 500 kV overhead transmission line proposed by Dominion Virginia Power. The line, as currently proposed, would cross the James River in the viewshed of Jamestown Island, Colonial Parkway, Carter’s Grove plantation and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The National Trust has been actively working to encourage Dominion to pursue an alternative project since 2013 when the James River was named to our list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”

Until another source of power comes in, this will be Dominion Virginia Power’s prevention method — a plan they hope they won’t need, but will still have in place.

Learn more about this project here.