Fauquier County, with its rolling hills and thick forests, is beautiful, and it is only natural that its residents want to maintain their environment. Virginia Power shares their concern and is serious about its obligation to be a good corporate steward of the environment and a good neighbor to county residents.
We accept that some people oppose our plan to construct four combustion turbine units near Remington. But misinformation is being circulated regarding the facility, and we would like to set the record straight [Close to Home, Sept. 5].
First, we need these generating units for our Virginia customers, not for anyone outside the state. Second, they will not be intrusive -- only two or three employees will work at the plant on the days it is in operation. Third, the units will take advantage of the best technology available, and their effect on the air quality of Fauquier County will be almost immeasurable.
The four 150-megawatt units in Fauquier County will generate only peaking power. Electricity use by our customers varies from a low point in the early morning to a peak in the early evening. On the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter, peak usage may be extremely high as air conditioners or heaters labor to keep homes comfortable.
For example, on July 6, when temperatures were blistering, we set a peak-usage record of 16,213 megawatts between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. (On average, one megawatt is enough electricity to power 250 homes.) Our yearly average for that time period is about 10,400 megawatts.
We were able to meet the demand that time, but we will be hard pressed to meet a similar peak next year without additional generating capacity. After a nine-month study, the Virginia State Corporation Commission agreed that additional capacity was needed to avoid service disruptions. The most economical way for us to meet peak demands is by building combustion turbine units for use on the 50 or 60 days a year when usage is highest.
The units will run only during about 5 percent of the year and will burn clean natural gas in a highly efficient way. Under state Department of Environmental Quality permits, the units can produce no more than 249 tons of nitrogen oxide. At those levels, the effect on air quality will be minute.
On a few occasions, we will have to use oil as a backup fuel. We anticipate that this would happen about three or four times a year, usually in winter. When we do burn oil, we also need water, which will be stored on site in a 6-million-gallon tank. The tank will draw from a well, and filling probably will be stretched across a one- or two-month period. We have agreed to work with the county to develop a water-management plan to dictate how much water we can use and at what rate. We also have given the county and adjacent landowners a written pledge that if our operations cause problems with their wells, we will fix the problems.
We selected the Remington site because of its proximity to transmission lines and to natural gas lines. Zoning for this property specified that it could be used for a utility-generation facility with county approval.
The turbines will sit on a 40-acre plot surrounded by more than 450 acres preserved in their natural state; the site will continue to serve as a hunting preserve. Our closest neighbor will be a quarter-mile from the units, five more neighbors will be within three-quarters of a mile and the next-nearest neighbor will be nearly a mile beyond that.
A subdivision recently was constructed less than a half-mile from a similar turbine site of ours in Richmond, and few of its residents even know the facility exists -- they can't see or hear it. The Remington facility would be even quieter and more remote.
Virginia Power met with members of the Piedmont Environmental Council before announcing the project in August 1998. Since then, we have responded to all inquiries about the project.
We provided a bus to take Fauquier residents to our Richmond turbine site (an offer that still stands), where we presented our plans for Remington and spent nearly an hour answering questions. We followed that meeting with an open house at an elementary school in Fauquier County. We also provided forms allowing individuals to mail us questions about the facility.
Fauquier is a beautiful county, and it will be just as beautiful when our units come on line next summer. We are committed to a long-term relationship with all the communities we serve, and Fauquier is no exception.
-- Eva S. Teig
is senior vice president for external affairs and corporate communications for Virginia Power.