FirstEnergy meetings ‘preliminary step’ in Harmon-Toronto project

FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) will hold four public meetings next week to inform the public about its proposed 345-kV Harmon-Toronto transmission project in Ohio, a move FirstEnergy officials describe as the preliminary step in the project’s development.

“In Ohio, we have to work through the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) to get approval for these types of projects,” a FirstEnergy spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 18. The board has a “very elaborate, very comprehensive information plan in place regarding any [new] projects … and is very thorough.”

The purpose of the meetings is to provide information about “who could potentially be affected by this project, what it is we’re doing, why we’re doing it, [and] what our plans are,” the spokesperson said. Those who attend the meetings will also learn about the company’s preferred and alternate routes and preferred and alternate locations for the project’s two substations.

Following next week’s meetings, FirstEnergy will submit a filing to the OPSB, which will include information from the meetings. The OPSB will then schedule a public hearing on the project.

The $134m project will include approximately 85 miles of transmission line, with a 345-kV line connecting a new substation in Toronto, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border to a new substation to be build near Harmon, which is on the Ohio River about 35 miles south of Akron. It will also involve building a 345-kV line to link the Harmon facility to the existing Star substation near Wadsworth, Ohio, according to the spokesperson.

The project is part of First Energy’s “Energizing the Future” initiative, a comprehensive transmission construction program designed to improve service reliability as power plants in the region are deactivated due to the high cost of complying with new U.S. Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) standards.

The initiative will include installing new or rebuilding existing transmission lines, new substations, and installing specialized voltage regulating equipment across northern Ohio. The company expects to spend between $700m and $900m on the projects over the next five years.

PJM Interconnection (PJM) determined the projects are needed “to ensure there is an adequate transmission system in place to ensure there aren’t any reliability issues” in the face of power plant deactivations, the spokesperson said.

The utility plans to begin construction in late 2013, according to FirstEnergy. Substations need to be in service by the summer of 2015, and the transmission lines are expected to be energized by mid-2017, the spokesperson said.