Dominion plant up and running

The Dominion Power plant in Warren County went on line Thursday, delivering electricity to 325,000 customers throughout Virginia.

The $1.1 billion project started generating power to customers, marking an end to a two-year and nine-month project. Dan Genest, a Dominion Power spokesperson, said the company is “thrilled” to get the plant on the power grid.

According to Genest, the plant will generate 1,300 megawatts of electricity and will mainly serve the northern Virginia region around Washington D.C. One megawatt can power 250 homes, Genest said.

“This plant will help off load the strain we have on other plants serving that region,” Genest said. “Northern Virginia continues to grow and we need to make sure we can keep up with that growth.”

The plant will employ approximately 40 workers and create another 60 jobs for contractors working at the plant, Genest said.

“Before we decided to put a plant there, we had an economic study done that projected the economic impact on the state of Virginia will be $35 million,” Genest said. “Most of that money will stay in Warren County.”

Warren County administrator Doug Stanley said the plant is expected to generate $4 million in tax revenue annually. In the 2015 budget, the county will use revenue raised from the facility to help finance a proposed new middle school and pay for the county’s portion of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, Stanley said.

Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, said the tax revenue generated from the plant is a boon for the county.

“When we were created, it was part of our mission to increase the industrial tax base for the county from 8 percent to 25 percent,” McDonald said. “With Dominion operating in Warren County, that will put us around 30 percent. The more industrial tax base we have, the less burden that is on our citizens.”

The plant is the first of its kind in Virginia, operating on a “three-on-one combined cycle” system. Genest said the plant has three turbines, one powered by natural gas, which generates hot air that will boil water to create steam to power another turbine.

“The turbines are like huge jet engines,” Genest said. “We’re able to run the turbines with as little environmental impact as possible.”

Genest said the natural gas running the facility puts out half the carbon dioxide found in coal fire plants as well as less sulfur emissions. He noted part of the deal to put the plant in Warren County was to shut down Dominion’s North Branch plant in West Virginia.

“The North Branch plant was a coal fire plant about 70 miles west of Winchester,” Genest said. “As part of the air permitting process, we shut down that plant so coal emissions would not drift east and affect Shenandoah National Park.”

Genest said constructing the plant went smoothly.

“We had some really good contractors who knew exactly what they were doing,” Genest said. “It was a huge project, but everyone involved knew what to do and how to do it. We couldn’t be any happier with how it turned out.”

McDonald said the construction phase had a huge economic impact on the county.

“They had at times 1,500 workers here and they were renting houses, renting motel rooms, eating in our restaurants, shopping at our stores,” McDonald said. “It was great for business.”

Genest said the relationship between Dominion Power and Warren County, which does not have very many Dominion customers, has been wonderful.

“We are very appreciative of the town of Front Royal and Warren County with how welcoming they have been to us and we hope to continue to do business with them in the future,” Genest said.

Dominion Power, which is based in Richmond, generates about 17,700 megawatts of electricity in the commonwealth annually.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com