Dominion Energy hydroelectric pump

This hydroelectric storage power station, operated by Dominion Energy in Bath County, Va., is a larger version of the proposed hydroelectric pump storage facility that the company is considering for Tazewell County, Va. 

BLUEFIELD, Va. — With two public meetings set for next week on the proposed $2 billion hydroelectric pump storage facility in Tazewell County, the Town of Bluefield, Va. makes it clear it is backing the project.

Mayor Don Harris said the project, if eventually given the green light to proceed, “will give massive economic benefits to Tazewell County, while providing solutions to problems on Virginia’s electric grid.”

“The area is a perfect partner for this immense undertaking,” he said. “As a region, we can provide them with exactly what is needed to build and complete this project.”

Dominion has been performing the final stages of geotechnical work on East River Mountain, where the facility would be located. That work includes more core drilling to make sure the site, which will cover at least 2,600 acres owned by Dominion, is suitable for the project.

The proposed pump storage facility has two reservoirs, one near the top of the mountain and the other more than 1,000 below. Both would be located on the south side of East River Mountain a few miles west of Bluefield.

Water is released from the upper reservoir into tunnels where it gains enough force as it falls to rotate turbines in the powerhouse at the lower reservoir.

Electricity is then generated and sent to any place on Dominion’s grid where it is needed. Water is then pumped back up to the upper reservoir.

A site in Wise County had also been considered, but Dominion recently announced that site has been dropped and Tazewell County is the focus, with a decision to be made after all the testing has been completed and analyzed. That will probably be sometime next year.

“It’s not a slam dunk yet,” Spencer Adkins, director of generation projects for Dominion, said recently, adding that it’s a matter of performing all the necessary due diligence.

Residents in both Tazewell and Bland counties will have an opportunity to talk with representatives from Dominion about the project next week.

The first meeting will be held on July 16 at Graham High School from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Another meeting is scheduled for July 18 at Bland High School from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

One of the reasons Bland County is involved is the possibility of using Wolf Creek as a water source for the initial fill of the reservoirs, which requires 6.5 billion gallons of water.

When Harris describes the massive economic benefits, he is talking about $320 million in economic activity from more than 2,000 construction jobs and their impact over the course of almost a decade. Tazewell County would eventually see about $2.5 million a year in tax revenue.

“This is an excellent opportunity that will bring that very economic development and job creation about which residents are concerned,” Harris said, adding that the area also has a “hardworking and motivated workforce.”

Tazewell County Supervisors as well as county officials have also expressed support for the project, offering whatever services are needed to help make it happen.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com