Transmission line rebuild project gets approved in West Virginia

The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved a plan to upgrade transmission facilities in the Kanawha Valley requested by an affiliate of Appalachian Power. AEP West Virginia Transmission Co. sought approval of the plan in filings made last year.

In its orders January 10 and January 16, the commission found that the facilities would enhance the reliability of the electric transmission grid and prevent conditions that could cause thermal overloads without significantly impacting the public or the existing view shed.

The Kanawha Valley Area Transmission Reinforcement Project is driven by the power plant retirements that are scheduled in 2015. Kanawha River Plant in Glasgow and Sporn Plant in New Haven will close, and these combined with other plant closures in the region are changing the way electric power flows on the transmission grid and creating the need for reinforcement.

The last major reinforcement to this backbone electric grid was nearly 40 years ago. The upgrades not only meet the immediate need to strengthen the grid, but position the region well for future growth.

The project will involve removing current transmission facilities and replacing them with more modern structures and equipment of the same voltage that can carry about twice the capacity of the original lines. About 80 percent of the transmission line rebuild is expected to be done within or adjacent to existing rights of way. In most cases the existing 138 kV facilities that were built in the 1920s-1940s will be replaced with larger 138 kV lines and somewhat taller and heavier structures. Construction is expected to be complete in 2017.

The cost for the two projects just approved by the commission is estimated to be $173 million. Because the cost is spread among many states, the rate impact will be less than 15 cents a month for residential customers in West Virginia. No rate increase has been requested related to the project.

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