Virginia state regulators on Oct. 10 authorized Appalachian Power Company (APCo) to build and operate the proposed Jacksons Ferry-Progress Park 138-kV circuit, the Jacksons Ferry-Wythe 138-kV circuit and substation enhancements, subject to certain conditions.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), in its final order, granted the company’s request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for the project, adding that the lines and substation enhancements must be built and in service by Dec. 31, 2015. The company, however, is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.
The SCC agreed with an August recommendation from the hearing examiner assigned to the case, and found that APCo’s “proposed project is needed to improve reliability of service and support projected load growth in the Wytheville[, Va.] area,” according to the order, which also noted that the project “will meet the company’s long-term transmission reliability needs effectively.”
Furthermore, the SCC agreed with the hearing examiner that the proposed project will promote economic development in Virginia by maintaining the operational reliability of the transmission lines and, in turn, continuing to ensure the delivery of sufficient supplies of electrical power.
The SCC also noted that no one filed comments on the hearing examiner’s report.
In March, SCC staff filed a report concluding that the proposed project is needed to minimize the growing risk of a service interruption. Staff also concluded that the preferred alternative route and the viable alternative route are superior to other routes APCo considered and that either route would allow the project to be built and operated effectively and efficiently.
APCo filed its application in November 2012 proposing to build the two lines in Wythe County and Wytheville, the SCC said. The lines will begin at the Jacksons Ferry substation in Wythe County and continue to a point near Wytheville, where they will then diverge.
The lines will share right-of-way and supporting structures along the portion of the route from the Jacksons Ferry substation to the point of divergence. 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 (ROW) to the existing Wythe substation in Wytheville. Additionally, the company proposes supporting construction at the three substations.
APCo provided two possible routes for the lines, including its preferred route of about 17.6 miles and a possible alternative route of about 20.1 miles. The SCC added that to facilitate construction of those 138-kV lines, APCo proposed a 100-foot ROW, supporting structures and conductors and substation improvements.
The preferred alternative route would use slightly less existing ROW, but it is the shorter route, would minimize forest clearing, affect fewer residences and provide a source to inject future distribution substations into the area east of Wytheville. The SCC also said that while the preferred alternative route would affect lands owned by a number of property owners, it agrees with the hearing examiner that is superior to the alternatives. The SCC approved the expansion of the 500-foot corridor as the ROW traverses certain properties.
The SCC also said it agrees with the hearing examiner that the project will have a minimal impact on scenic assets and historic districts.
APCo proposed construction of the project to solve transmission planning criteria violation, improve the reliability of the existing transmission network in the Wytheville area and reinforce its electrical infrastructure for future growth.
The SCC also said that according to the company, the project must be in service by summer of 2015 to resolve projected criteria violations of mandatory NERC reliability standards and to maintain reliable service to customers in Wythe, Carroll, Grayson and Smyth counties.
The estimated cost of building the project is about $100m, according to the SCC.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in a February report provided general recommendations to APCo regarding the project, including that the company should conduct an on-site delineation of all wetlands and streams within the project area with verification by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, using accepted methods and procedures, and follow DEQ’s recommendations to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and streams.
As a condition to approval, APCo must comply with all of DEQ’s recommendations as provided in the DEQ February report, the SCC added.
Also, the company should, among other things, maintain naturally vegetated buffers of at least 100 feet around all wetlands and adhere to time of year restrictions in the construction of the transmission lines, the SCC said.
APCo is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).