Yorktown Power Station’s Oil Unit May Close by 2020

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A view of the Yorktown Power Station. (Photo courtesy of Dominion Virginia Power)
A view of the Yorktown Power Station. (Photo courtesy of Dominion Virginia Power)

In preparation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new regulations regarding carbon emissions, Dominion Virginia Power may retire York County’s oil-burning power unit in five years.

The two coal-powered plants in York County, called Yorktown 1 and 2, are already projected to be shut down by 2017.

Currently, there are a total of 108 employees across all three units, with 80 dedicated to daily operations. Once Yorktown units 1 and 2 are retired, about 55 employees will remain to run Yorktown 3.

The possible retirement of the oil unit is outlined in Dominion’s 2015 Integrated Resource Plan, which was released July 1.

The IRP is an annual 15-year planning guide filed with the State Corporation Commission that outlines four options for meeting federal EPA regulations expected to pass this summer.

One of the options for complying with the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan — which requires a 38 percent reduction in carbon intensity for Virginia by 2030 — is to retire the oil unit called Yorktown 3 by 2020.

Bonita Billingsley Harris with Dominion said the oil unit currently operates as a “peaker” to help meet customer demand when electricity usage is very high. It usually runs less than 8 percent of the time.

“Even though it does not run very often, it’s essential to meeting demands when we do need it,” Harris said.

If the unit were to shut down in 2020, two natural gas facilities expected to be built soon in the Virginia counties of Greensville and Brunswick will take over providing electricity for Dominion customers.

Plans to shut down York County’s two coal units have been established since 2011 based on finances. Harris said the costs to put in advanced environmental controls to comply with the EPA regulations would be “exorbitant” on Dominion’s customers.

The decision to officially close the plants was made in 2013, and Dominion has asked the EPA to extend the closing date until 2017. The EPA has not yet made a decision on whether to extend how long the units stay open.

The request for an extension comes after several hiccups have deterred Dominion’s plans to build a 500kV power line from the Surry Nuclear Power Plant across the James River to the planned Skiffes Creek Switching Station, which would take over the job of the two coal units.

The proposal for the power line was approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia in April but still needs the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The final decision is also contingent on the James City County Board of Supervisors, who have the final say on whether the switching station is built on land in Grove.

Dominion’s options for complying for the Clean Power Plan — should it get passed — include solar, wind, nuclear and natural gas resources in the form of new or upgraded facilities.

“Dominion believes the key to reliable electricity for the future is having a diverse fuel mix,” Harris said.

Each of the four plans involving solar, wind, nuclear and natural gas resources cost between $4.3 billion and $15.3 billion.

The full Dominion IRP can be found here. 

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