Dominion hints at its favored power line routes

Dominion hints at its favored power line routes

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Representatives with Dominion Virginia Power broke their silence about which routes they are most closely considering for a proposed 230-kilovolt transmission line from Arlington County through Alexandria.

Since announcing the proposal, which would run a power line from Dominion’s substation on South Glebe Road in Arlington to a Pepco substation at the site of the closed GenOn power plant in Alexandria, over the summer, the utility has refused to identify any preferred routes, despite highlighting nine possibilities. Dominion has said it will need an additional transmission line to prevent overloads on the Northern Virginia power grid.

But utility officials shed light on engineers’ current thinking last week at a meeting of the resident-led city work group tasked with evaluating Dominion’s proposal. Greg Baka, a siting and permitting specialist at the company, identified three of the most promising options.

“Generally speaking, and in no particular order, some routes have sort of risen to the top with the work we’ve been doing,” Baka said. “The CSX, [George Washington Parkway] and Potomac Avenue routes, those three continue to have a number of positive considerations. There are some drawbacks with any of the alternatives, but those three have risen to the top of the list.”

Those three routes make up most of the routes identified by the work group as “least objectionable” for the city, although members have categorized the Potomac Avenue option as a “distant” fourth choice.

In October, Dominion announced it would delay filing its application to state regulators until January, in light of an impending forecast on regional energy demand from grid operator PJM. Baka said if load projections come in lower than originally anticipated, Dominion may look more favorably on time-consuming alignments, like the George Washington Parkway.

“One of my concerns that was echoed previously was the lengthy time to resolve the [National Environmental Policy Act] process needed for the parkway,” he said. “A delay [in load increases] could be very helpful with that, so we are anxious to see how the numbers are slightly adjusted.”

City Councilor Tim Lovain said the news from Dominion was encouraging, especially since many residents and officials were concerned the utility would simply pick the recently repaved U.S. Route 1 as the most expeditious route.

“That’s a relief, but I hope they find a way to discard the Potomac Avenue route, because that would be very disruptive as well,” he said. “I’ve always felt that the CSX rail right of way would be ideal, so I’m happy that Route 1 appears to be off the table. It’s at least partially good news.”

The work group also unveiled a draft of its recommendations to city council. Although members seemed encouraged by Dominion’s report, the document highlights the group’s difficulty in working with the utility on the issue.

“To date, the city and the working group have yet to receive from PJM, Dominion and Pepco, detailed technical information necessary to evaluate the need for the project and/or whether the project will actually and effectively address reliability issues related to Dominion’s assertion that it will serve Alexandria’s increased electrical demand,” members wrote. “[Although] Dominion has participated in every meeting of the working group, it has not yet provided any substantive information that the working group or the community requested.”

That, coupled with the short time frame given to the city to evaluate the utility’s proposal has made decision-making particularly difficult, the group said.

“The working group has struggled within the short time frame mandated by Dominion to gain technical knowledge to assess the complex issues related to the project,” members wrote. “While Dominion has represented that additional information will be available after it has filed its application with the [State Corporation Commission], its failure to provide information before filing leaves the working group and the city few innovative solutions to consider in such a short time frame.”

The group’s next meeting is tentatively scheduled for December 11, depending on whether new information comes out of two PJM-hosted meetings regarding its load projection forecast.