The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) should grant Appalachian Power Company’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity authorizing the construction and operation of the Wythe County area transmission improvements, according to Howard Anderson Jr., a hearing examiner with the SCC.
In his Aug. 15 report to the SCC, Anderson said he found that the proposed project is needed to meet growing electrical demands and improve reliability for customers in the Town of Wytheville and Wythe County area in Virginia.
He also found that the proposed project is essential to support ongoing economic development within that area and is not suitable to be built underground. Furthermore, the proposed transmission line route reasonably uses existing right-of-way to the maximum extent possible, and the proposed route and tower design reasonably mitigate the overall impact and generally improve the aesthetics of the proposed project.
SCC staff in March also recommended that the SCC approve the project.
According to the report, Appalachian Power, which is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP), filed its application in November 2012 proposing to build two transmission lines in Wythe County and Wytheville: the Jacksons Ferry – Progress Park 138-kV Circuit and the Jacksons Ferry – Wythe 138-kV Circuit. The two lines will begin at the Jacksons Ferry substation in Wythe County and continue to a point near Wytheville, where they will diverge.
At that point, the Jacksons Ferry – Progress Park 138-kV Circuit will extend to the existing Progress Park substation in Wythe County, and the Jacksons Ferry – Wythe 138-kV Circuit will extend on a separate right-of-way to the existing Wythe substation in Wytheville.
The company also proposed supporting construction at the three substations.
Appalachian Power plans for an in-service date of Dec. 31, 2015, and the estimated cost of all facilities included in the proposed project is about $100m.
PJM Interconnection’s 2011 regional transmission expansion plan (RTEP) study found that, starting in the summer of 2015, as many as 11 138-kV substations in the area would experience voltage deviations of 8% or higher, and as high as 24% in the event of a double contingency outage of the transmission sources serving the area.
Applicable NERC reliability criteria require that voltages on any 138-kV facility in the area must not deviate by 8% or more in the event of the outage of any two of the three transmission sources serving the area, Anderson said.
“The proposed project would address current day voltage problems on [the company’s] transmission system in the Wythe County area that will worsen due to the combined effect of projected load growth together with planned generation retirements at AEP’s Clinch River and Glen Lyn generation plants,” Anderson said.
A public witness challenged the company’s load growth projections during the proceeding, but the witness limited the scope of his comments on load growth to recent years during which the country, as well as Wythe County, was experiencing a serious economic downturn, Anderson said, adding that the company’s calculations, which include the period used by the witness, cover a wider range of historical load growth.
He also noted that the company’s preferred route should be used for the line because it has many advantages, even though there are significant impacts to the lands of the Jewell Family Limited Partnership, among others. The preferred route is the shortest at 17.6 miles versus 20.1 miles for an alternative route. It also minimizes the total amount of forest clearing – 75 acres versus 140 acres for the alternative route – and it affects fewer residences – 20 total, compared with 48 total under the alternative route.
“From a transmission planning perspective, the preferred route is more desirable than the alternative route because it provides a source to inject future distribution substations into the area east of Wytheville to meet future load growth and economic development,” Anderson added.
He also noted that the company analyzed an overhead alignment as well as a hybrid alignment consisting of underground and overhead construction along the Broadford – Jacksons Ferry 765-kV transmission line corridor. The company determined that a “Broadford Alignment” would, for instance, require the demolition or relocation of more homes and have roughly 10 times more houses within 250 feet of the new line.
Among other things, he added that the company’s objections to recommendations proposed by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and others are reasonable, adding that the company should not be required to:
- Maintain naturally vegetated buffers of at least 100 feet around all wetland sites.
- Adhere to time of year restrictions in the construction of the transmission line.
- Use only the least toxic herbicides and pesticides.
- Commit to reforestation measures and the creation of forest land conservation fund.
All other DEQ recommendations, however, are reasonable and should be approved, he said.
Comments to the report must be filed with the SCC clerk within 21 days from the report’s date.