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Coalfield pumped hydroelectric smaller version of Bath County site

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BATH COUNTY, Va. - An opportunity to boost energy production in southwest Virginia and create jobs is now in the critical planning stages.

Southwest Virginia lawmakers passed a law dedicated to looking at pumped hydroelectric storage as an economic development option.

The construction phase would create about 2,000 jobs lasting five to eight years. Once it is built, the plant will have at least 50 full-time positions. News 5 traveled to the world's largest pumped hydroelectric operation, also operated by Dominion Energy in Virginia. Dominion is the company proposing the industry in the coalfield region.

Bath County's pumped storage station started generation power in 1985. It now generates electricity for 750,000 homes. According to a Dominion spokesperson, the company pays about $3 million in property taxes back to the county.

A similar proposal for economic development is now planned for the coalfield region. The measure would provide $12 million to the area and boost the region's potential as the state's leading energy producer. Pumped hydroelectric facilities put out power when needed, using upper and lower reservoir pools.

Water travels from the upper reservoir to the lower reservoir to turn turbines and activate generators during peak periods."

"In the morning when folks get up and start getting ready. Naturally, they're using more electricity. That peak will also occur in the afternoon when people start getting off work and getting home," Bath County's operations and maintenance manager Bill Michell said.

The water is then stored and pumped back up the mountain at night, during a low generating time. "We would get a call that we need to start a generator. Then from the time we get that call, about six minutes later, we can be producing electricity and be putting it out on the grid and for the users out there." Spencer Adkins has been one of Dominion's leaders for the southwest Virginia project. The company has filed for federal permits for a site on East River Mountain in Tazewell. "It's going to be a lot smaller facility, but it's going to be very similar in how it works, how it operates, the type of the equipment that's installed," Adkins said.

The company is studying a second site in Appalachia, but calls the project a 'concept.' Adkins said, "It really has not been done in this country, so we're evaluating what type of equipment will be needed, so we're not really sure what that's going to look like yet." Dominion officials say they expect preliminary findings from their site research by early next year.

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