Slow load growth causes delay in northeast Georgia line upgrade

A 500-kV power line project in northeast Georgia, which the project’s fact sheet says is “designed to ensure a robust statewide electric grid that is capable of meeting Georgia’s ever-increasing energy demand,” has been delayed in part because the area’s power needs are growing more slowly than expected.

The delay in starting construction on the 46-mile, 500-kV East Walton to Rockville line, to be built by Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC), will give participants the opportunity to reevaluate the need for the project.

GTC is a not-for-profit cooperative owned by 39 of the state’s 42 electric membership cooperatives and provides electric transmission for those co-ops.

A GTC spokesperson told TransmissionHub March 14 that the schedule for the $85.9m project, which will run through three counties, is “under discussion.”

“It’s probably going to be into the hot summer before we know” a date for the start of construction, the spokesperson said, “because it’s going to be based on the load that we experience and if there’s some load growth” at that time.

In addition, the spokesperson added, “There’s not firm agreement among [GTC’s] integrated transmission system (ITS) members that it’s needed right now.”

As a result, the previously announced 2015 in-service date is “very much in question.”

“There’s discussion on whether it might be pushed out to 2017 but then, if it’s a hot summer, we might go ahead and try to meet that 2015 date,” the spokesperson said.

In addition to slower than expected load growth, other factors are playing a part. The Rural Utility Service (RUS) has not yet issued its finding of no significant impact, which was expected in December 2011. The spokesperson said the co-op has not been advised as to when they can expect to receive the RUS determination.

The project as planned is part of a series of projects referred to as the northeast grid upgrades, a group of projects in six northeast Georgia counties and described by GTC as the largest system upgrade in 30 years.

GTC’s fact sheet on the East Walton – Rockville project says the northeast grid upgrades are needed.

“Without the new facilities, electric service in north Georgia would be severely compromised. Power outages on the bulk system could affect the underlying … transmission and distribution lines that serve homes and businesses, resulting in widespread outages of all Georgians,” according to the fact sheet.