Thursday, June 29, 2017

Virginia approves re-purposing abandoned coal mines to generate hydroelectric power

Dominion Energy has received a green light from the Virginia General Assembly to repurpose abandoned coal mines as pumped hydroelectric storage facilities, reports Robert Sorrell of the Bristol Herald Courier.

One such facility, the largest in the world, has been operating in Bath County, Virginia, since 1985, and can power 750,000 homes. As the coal industry shrivels, rural lawmakers and utility companies have sought ways to use coal mines to generate power in a different way.
Hydroelectric storage facilities work like this: two reservoirs at different elevations are connected by large pipes. When water runs from the upper reservoir to the lower reservoir, it goes through turbines, which spin generators and produce electricity. At night when the public uses less electricity, the turbines function as pumps that pull water back up to the upper reservoir.

Dominion spokesman Dan Genest says it is too soon to estimate the cost of a reclaimed coal-mine hydroelectric storage facility, or how much power one could generate.

The editorial board of the Herald Courier is optimistic about the project, saying it "presents bright prospects for the area's economy, potential job market benefits and energy production. Potential tax breaks, offset electricity prices, available power stored for on-demand usage and new jobs from the construction and maintenance of the facility all push the region toward prosperity."

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