Saturday, November 26, 2022

No more coal: Yorktown Power Station units 1, 2 shut down after power line energizes

A view of the Yorktown Power Station. (WYDaily/Courtesy Dominion Virginia Power)
A view of the Yorktown Power Station. (WYDaily/Courtesy Dominion Virginia Power)

The Skiffes Creek power line is up, and operations at the Yorktown Power Station are now rolling to a close.

Dominion Energy and regional transmission system operator PJM are working through the rest of 2019 to decommission two coal-fired power plant units in Yorktown, Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said.

The units are being decommissioned because the 500-kilovolt Skiffes Creek Transmission Line was fully energized Feb. 27.

For the past two years, Yorktown 1 and 2 have only been run in emergency situations to help ensure the reliability of the transmission system on the Peninsula,” Genest said. “With the completion of the Skiffes Creek line, they are no longer needed for that purpose.”

RELATED STORY: Feds OK firing up Yorktown coal plants

Dominion officials have previously said the transmission line was necessary to prevent “rolling blackouts” on the Peninsula.

A third unit at the power station, a 790-megawatt oil-fired generator, will continue to operate during times of peak demand — the hottest and coldest days of the year.

“Currently, the plan is to retire it in 2022, but that is subject to review and change,” Genest said.

History

In June 2017, the Department of Energy granted an order allowing PJM to operate the two units on a “very limited basis” in emergency situations. The units were closed in April 2017 as Dominion worked to comply with the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, which is designed to reduce air chemical emissions at coal-fired power plants.

The Department of Energy reviewed the order allowing emergency operation every 90 days, giving Dominion enough time to finalize the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line.

That order expired Feb. 27, the same day the Skiffes Creek Transmission Line energized.

The line was energized despite a pending appeal, which eventually led to a ruling stating the project’s construction permit was given outside of the law.

The court ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, which was required to give the construction permit but never done.

RELATED STORY: Appeals court rules Dominion power line permit given outside of the law

The Skiffes Creek transmission project was energized on Tuesday despite awaiting the results of an appeal to stop the project. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
The Skiffes Creek transmission project was energized on Tuesday despite awaiting the results of an appeal to stop the project. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Slowing down and decommissioning

During the decommissioning process, crews will get the two coal-fired units into an “environmentally and physically safe condition.”

Decommissioning includes draining fluids, deactivating switches and severing electrical connections. Crews will also remove about 150 feet from the stack shared by the coal-fired units, which has been repaired and reinforced in the past, Genest said.

No demolition will be done while the third oil-fired unit is operational.

The units will still be able to operate for the next week or so, but only if the Department of Energy issued another emergency order to run the power station.

There were “more than 100” employees at the Yorktown Power Station when it was in full operation. All of those employees were given the choice to retire or accept other positions within the company.

There were no layoffs as a result of moving to retire Units 1 and 2,” Genest said, adding there were currently about 50 employees onsite at the power station as of March 12

Once the coal-fired units are decommissioned, the third oil-fired unit will need only about 35 employees for operation and maintenance. Those additional 15 displaced employees will also be offered retirement or positions elsewhere, Genest said.

“Once Unit 3 is retired, a decision will be made on what will be done with the site,” Genest said.

The decommissioning of the units will not impact York County real estate or machinery and tools tax revenue because the power station is taxed by the State Corporation Commission Division of Public Service Taxation, said Wendy Kurnas, auditor for the York County Commissioner of the Revenue Office.

“According to the Public Service Book published in 2018 the value of property in the Nelson District was $69,136,711 and the tax was $549,636.85,” Kurnas said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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