Planning for the 585-megawatt, $1.8 billion Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center began in 2004, a project launched as a result of legislation in the Virginia General Assembly spearheaded by former state Sen. William Wampler Jr., with construction started in 2008.
The electricity generating station that can also provide 20 percent of its generating capacity with biomass and coal waste, was completed and put into full operation earlier this year, can produce enough electricity to power 146,000 typical homes, and pumps $258 million annually into the area’s economy as well as over $6 million in annual local tax revenues.
On Thursday, McDonnell and other dignitaries hailed the facility as the most environmentally friendly coal-fired power plant in the world as a result of its design elements that include controls that “prove that coal can be burned cleanly and will remain an important part of the commonwealth’s energy picture for decades to come,” the governor said.
“This is not only an economic development engine for Southwest Virginia,” McDonnell said, “but low cost, reliable energy” for Virginians and an example of coal’s place as a major energy source to be hammered into Washington, D.C., policymakers.
McDonnell pointed out 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, known in his first term in the House of Representatives for criticizing the Obama administration’s policies toward the coal industry.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we had more people in Washington who understood” the vital nature of coal in a national energy policy, McDonnell posed the question to Griffith. The governor told the crowd “you look around and see coal. I see jobs.”
McDonnell said the biggest issue facing the nation at this time “is to put more people back to work” and Dominion’s new power plant “is a jobs magnet for the region” with 85 onsite permanent jobs and 300 mining jobs just the beginning.
The power plant, he said, “is a major economic driver for the region and the state” that proves there is a proper balance between environmental and economic concerns. “America is in great need of a comprehensive energy policy,” he said, that includes abundant coal reserves in the equation.
“When we have over-regulation to stymie (job creators),” he said, “then we are not helping our citizens.”
Dominion Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II said the facility “is literally the cleanest coal plant in the whole world” and helps his utility achieve its goal where “being a good neighbor is an integral part of our company.”
Farrell said the plant is a “key part” of Dominion’s ability to meet growing energy demand “well into the future” and the facility is “a particularly welcome addition to our fleet” of electricity generating stations.
State Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Lebanon, said the coal industry is “under attack” and he had a message “for the naysayers” who opposed the project on environmental grounds.
“Here is a facility that’s a model for the world,” Puckett said, proving coal can be used in an environmentally benign manner to produce energy, jobs and economic development for a region in sore need of it.