Dominion plant hits the halfway mark

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL — After reaching the halfway mark last month, construction on Dominion Virginia Power’s plant in Warren County is steadily chugging along toward powering 325,000 Northern and Central Virginia homes with electricity in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The 1,329 megawatt natural gas-fired power plant, located three miles north of Front Royal, is being constructed by a joint venture consisting of Zachry Inc. and Burns & McDonnell, and will be owned and operated by Dominion Virginia Power.

Site Construction Manager Colin Kelly said on Wednesday that the plant is at 57 percent completion and that construction is right on schedule. He said crews still need to finish building the air-cooled condenser, complete wiring of the plant and construct a water treatment building.

“The walls, windows and roof is up, but the wiring and plumbing is needed inside,” he said, comparing the power station to a house.

He said the power station will begin its start-up and commissioning activities near the end of May, and its reliability and performance testing from August to October of next year.

According to Kelly, 1,550 people including the management are currently working on the site and 25 percent of those workers are from within a 50-mile radius. After construction is finished, 40 full-time employees will work at the plant.

Those workers have been hired and are undergoing a nine-month training cycle to start work in the spring.

The $1.1 billion project has done plenty to spur on Warren County in terms of tax dollars and Front Royal business, but it’s also a feat of modern technology. Kelly said it’s the first “three-in-one” — which refers to the three combustion turbines — plant in Virginia. He added that it’s the first plant he’s ever built utilizing “G-technology.”

“It’s kind of like airplanes,” he said. “For a while, the 747 was the standard. Then the 737 was used and now they’re using the 777.”

If there’s ever an electrical blackout, Kelly said a battery system is equipped to last for several hours and an emergency backup generator, powered by diesel fuel, can keep things running.

Dominion Virginia Power, Zachry and Burns & McDonnell have also found ways to give back to the local community. The organizations were involved in upgrading the Riverton Boat Ramp by paving the ramp, landscaping the area and installing a streetlamp. They delivered about 10,000 pounds of food for a 2012 Christmas food drive and Kelly said they plan to double that number this year. They raised more than $240,000 for the United Way Fund in 2012 and provided 250 stuffed backpacks for local schools this fall.

Kelly said the power station is scheduled to reach 75 percent completion in about five months.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com