Georgia Transmission suspends East Walton to Rockville line

Georgia Transmission Corp. (GTC) has suspended indefinitely the development of its 500-kV East Walton to Rockville transmission project due to stagnant load growth in the area caused by the downturn in the economy.

As originally planned, the 46-mile, $85.9m project would have run from the East Walton, Ga., substation to a new Rockville substation. Construction had been scheduled to begin in 2012, with completion in mid-2015.

However, in March 2012 GTC delayed the start of construction to give participants the opportunity to reevaluate the need for the project, in part because the area’s power needs were growing more slowly than originally forecast.

Now, the company said, the load growth has virtually stalled out due to a lackluster economy, so it has reclassified the project as an “advance land purchase” rather than a transmission line project.

“We do know that, at some point, we’re going to need a line in this area,” a GTC spokesperson told TransmissionHub on March 6. Accordingly, the company will complete the acquisition of the last two easements necessary for the project, but will not move forward with the project itself in the foreseeable future.

“Because we were so far into purchasing these easements, it made sense to go ahead and at least complete that part of the process so we’ll have the land when we need it, but we won’t go any further than that at this time,” the spokesperson said.

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.

While current conditions are not favorable, the company will continue to evaluate conditions and revisit the project plans as necessary.

“We plan on a 10-year window and … it’s an ongoing process,” the spokesperson said. “Planners are continually monitoring the grid and looking at the population projections, the economic indicators, and many other factors, and you just don’t know when it might come back.”

The project was planned as 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.