We work to avoid disturbing wildlife and natural habitats, and we have adopted a variety of measures to protect birds, fish and other wildlife. We partner with local communities and organizations in these efforts to ensure we have the right expertise in the geographical area.
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What you should know
We strive to protect wildlife and habitat around our operations.
We continue to implement new design standards that avoid impacts to wildlife.
We are creating habitat for birds, bees and other pollinators.
Our business involves producing reliable energy and transporting it to our customers, which has the potential to affect wildlife and habitat. Our strategy is to find ways to avoid impacts, and where we cannot we look for ways to minimize or mitigate them.
We changed the route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline more than 300 times to minimize effects on natural resources, threatened and endangered species, and state-protected species, and to accommodate landowner requests. At every stage of the project we've taken tremendous care to protect the environment and minimize impacts on landowners. Examples include:
- We relocated federally endangered Clubshell mussels.
- We conducted acoustic monitoring at bat caves in Virginia.
- We installed monitoring equipment to evaluate shade and soil moisture to protect federally threatened small whorled pogonia plants.
- We relocated ginseng in the George Washington National Forest.
- In West Virginia, we relocated red spruce trees within Northern flying squirrel areas to ensure that the squirrel habitat is not diminished.
- We preserved 500 acres of land in West Virginia to protect running buffalo clover.
Protecting Birds, Fish and Animals
Dominion Energy has a long history of protecting birds from adverse power line impacts — starting with eagle protection areas established in the early 1990s and updated in 2015 in response to the changing bald eagle population. When birds with large wingspans make contact with multiple wires, they can create a path for electricity and get hurt. Most injuries and deaths occur when the birds land on electrical equipment or collide with power lines.
We maintain an avian protection program that protects large birds such as bald eagles, ospreys, owls and vultures, and preserves avian protection zones along major rivers. For distribution construction upgrades in these zones, the company increases the horizontal space between electric lines on crossarms to prevent accidental phase to phase contact by large-winged birds. For crossarms that have reduced horizontal spacing, the company installs perch guards to discourage birds from landing on the crossarms. The company installs bird flight diverters when necessary to prevent birds from flying into the lines. The company uses wildlife guards and insulated leads on our equipment, such as transformers, to prevent accidental phase to ground contact. Construction occurring outside of the protection zones also includes most of these improved avian protections.
Dominion Energy is one of the first companies in the country to use aluminum-alloy nesting platforms to provide ospreys and bald eagles with an alternative to nesting on transmission towers. These durable aluminum platforms will last longer than wooden platforms, which are prone to be destroyed by high winds and storms. Keeping birds off the transmission towers protects them from harm and reduces power outages for the company’s customers.
To protect birds around our Dominion Energy Wexpro produced-water evaporation facilities, we have covered one facility with netting to keep birds and other wildlife from entering it. At three other facilities, we cooperated with the Fish and Wildlife Service and local regulatory agencies to adopt the Bird Avert System. Bird Avert uses radar to detect birds and then deploys oversized plastic falcons, strobes, and falcon vocals to deter birds from approaching.
We also take other measures to manage avian issues so that we can reduce risk to both wildlife and our customers. At our Surry nuclear power plant, for example, we either separated power lines to prevent birds from grounding between phases or installed bird flight diverters to allow the birds to “see” the lines and avoid them. Since these customized modifications we have not witnessed any bird strikes on our lines. In addition, we built poles for osprey nests around the site where the birds previously occupied local electric poles.
We work to avoid disturbing wildlife and natural habitat where we can, and we try to mitigate our effects upon them where we cannot. At our Chesterfield Power Station, we installed and repaired protection systems at the water intakes on the James River. These systems were specifically designed in consultation with Virginia Commonwealth University to protect adult Atlantic sturgeon from entering the intakes. Chesterfield Power Station also partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute to assess the feasibility of a variety of technologies and operational measures that may be used to reduce the effect of water temperature fluctuations on fish.
Dominion Energy constructed fish passage facilities at Roanoke Rapids Power Station that allow eels to access their historic habitat. In 2009, Dominion Energy began operating eel ladders, or “eelways,” to capture, count and transport American eels upstream of the Roanoke Rapids Dam. These eels are transported above the dam to repopulate historic eel habitat and restore their ecological function. To date, more than 2 million eels moved upstream of the Roanoke Rapids Power Station, and more than 71,000 were passed upstream in 2018. We are currently designing similar upstream passage facilities to be constructed below Dominion Energy’s Gaston Power Station.
In addition to these infrastructure projects, Dominion Energy conducts monitoring studies at facilities where we use water to make power. These studies provide information that is used to ensure environmental effects of facility operations are not detrimentally impact the water and fisheries resources, and to help optimize fishery management strategies.
Employees at our Warren County Power Station noticed that bats were being drawn into the large fans that are part of the station’s air-cooled condenser. To protect the bats, the company installed netting beneath the fans. Referred to as the Wildlife Exclusion System, this extensive netting protects bats from flying into the air-cooled condenser. Currently, there are no effective bat deterrent systems or technologies available that can be used on air-cooled condensers due to their sheer size. The design of the Wildlife Exclusion System is the first of its kind in the world to effectively minimize bat mortality without affecting performance. Based on two years of monitoring, the bat mortality at the Warren County Power Station was reduced by 98 percent. Dominion Energy included the Wildlife Exclusion System into the design of plants with similar air-cooled condensers.
As we design and plan projects, we also survey potentially sensitive habitats to better understand and minimize effects on wildlife. For example, at a solar site in Virginia we designed corridors for wildlife to pass between array fields or around the facilities.
Creating, Protecting and Restoring Habitats
We are proud to cultivate long-standing partnerships with local communities to protect and enhance habitat.
For over 25 years Dominion Energy has partnered with the Elk Foundation to support elk conservation and education in Pennsylvania. We have contributed over $500,000 to elk habitat enhancement, stewardship and relocation projects, and a state-of-the-art elk conservation education and tourism center.
We continue to work to protect a large freshwater marsh along the western shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay near our Cove Point facility. In addition to routine monitoring and maintenance of the beach and marsh, in 2018 we continued a partnership with local schools and educational groups and planted approximately 1,200 beach grasses to protect this important resource.
This year, biologists from Millstone Power Station collaborated with scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to publish “Rising Temperatures, Molting Phenology, and Epizootic Shell Disease in the American Lobster” in the November 2018 issue of The American Naturalist. The study used Millstone’s 40-year lobster-study tagging data and seawater temperature records to provide important insights into the causes of a recent disease outbreak in southern New England lobsters.
As a result of relicensing the Roanoke Rapids Power Station, dam releases were modified to help maintain river bank stability and eliminate downstream flooding that could have a detrimental impact on tree seedling regeneration in the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge.
We manage our electric rights-of-way to increase habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Our Wings at Work program does this by creating and fostering pollinator habitats.
Here's what we have done recently:
- Managed over 43,000 acres of habitat suitable for pollinators;
- Modified our mowing practices to encourage the growth of native plants;
- Worked with landowners along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to create pollinator sanctuaries; and
- Awarded $50,000 in grants to seven pollinator projects through the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.
After planting a one-acre plot of pollinator species in 2018, the Bath County Pumped Storage Station is protecting wildlife on the remaining 99 acres of property through modified mowing practices. Reduced mowing on a rotational basis creates and fosters pollinator habitat.
The company also pledged to create more than 500 acres of additional habitat by the end of 2020. This includes 60 acres of additional pollinator habitat at its power stations and pilot plots for habitat at solar-farm sites.