Appalachian Power Announces $337 Million Upgrade to Electric Grid in West Virginia

Upcoming power plant retirements in the Kanawha and Ohio valleys as early as 2015 will change the way electric power flows on the electric transmission grid. To accommodate those changes and address additional issues identified by an independent regional transmission operator, an Appalachian Power affiliate will file requests this year with regulators to make more than $337 million in upgrades in West Virginia, with most of the work slated for the Kanawha Valley.

“The power grid is dynamic and it will be affected by retirement of existing power plants,” said Charles Patton, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “These upgrades not only meet the immediate need to strengthen the grid, but position the region well for growth in the future.”

The upgrades include rebuilding approximately 52 miles of existing transmission lines and making upgrades to substations. The bulk of the Kanawha Valley work will take place between the company’s John Amos Plant and its Turner and Cabin Creek substations, with a key loop in the Cross Lanes area and another in the Kanawha City area.  Additional work will be done to facilities that feed off the backbone transmission line that runs from Poca to Cabin Creek. The last major reinforcement to this backbone was nearly 40 years ago.

The rebuild will involve removing current transmission facilities and replacing them with similar but sturdier facilities of the same voltage. Approximately 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 kilovolt (kV) facilities that were built in the 1920s-1940s will be replaced with 138 kV lines and somewhat taller and of heavier structures that can carry more current. Routing and construction details will be determined after additional field work is done.

The company will host two informational workshops in the project area, July 8 at Poca High School, Rt. 62, Poca, and July 9 at Kanawha City Elementary, 3601 Staunton Avenue, Kanawha City. The workshops will be from 5-8 p.m.

Once the field work is complete the Appalachian Power affiliate, AEP West Virginia Transmission Company, Inc., will file requests with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia seeking approval to perform the work. Construction is expected to begin this fall and the work is expected to be complete in 2017.         

The electric distribution system in the Charleston area is largely served by five 138 kV transmission substations. At these substations the electricity is stepped down in voltage for consumers. Most residential and commercial consumers take power at 120/240 volts.