Appalachian Power seeks approval in Virginia for new 138-kV line, substation

Appalachian Power Company, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP), in its March 7 application filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), said that it is proposing to build a new, approximately 3.8-mile, 138-kV transmission line, as well as the new South Abingdon substation.

As part of the project, which is estimated to cost about $30m, the company is also proposing to make associated improvements at three existing substations in the Abingdon-Washington County area.

The project would maintain reliability for Appalachian’s customers in the southern part of the Town of Abingdon and the adjacent areas of Washington County in light of existing and projected load growth due to recent and planned residential, business/commercial and medical development in the project area, as well as in light of the significant increase in the winter peak load experienced in the project area due to the extremely low temperatures of the winter of 2014-2015, the company added.

The project’s proposed in-service date is Dec. 1, 2017, and most of the construction is expected to take place in 2017, the company said. In a March 7 statement, the company noted that if approved by the SCC, construction is expected to begin by the end of this year.

The project, which would connect the existing Saltville–Kingsport 138-kV transmission line and the proposed South Abingdon substation, would be built on a new right of way (ROW), primarily using low reflective steel monopoles that range in height from 80 feet to 125 feet, the company said in its application. The new ROW would be about 100 feet wide, except in one location near the Virginia Highlands Airport, where it may be up to 125 feet wide.

Appalachian Power also said that it contacted POWER Engineers Inc., to assist with the route development and selection process, as well as prepare a route development report (RDR). Following extensive outreach, public input and analysis, three alternative routes were developed, the company said, noting that it supports POWER’s conclusion that the preferred route – “Alternative C” – is the superior route. As supported by the RDR, that route reasonably avoids or minimizes adverse impacts on people as well as on the scenic assets, historic districts and environment of the area concerned, the company said.

The company noted in its statement that its preferred route begins at an existing transmission line on the west side of Abingdon and continues south across Interstate 81 into Washington County, before turning east to an end point at the new substation on Vances Mill Road.

According to the direct testimony of J. Kelly Bledsoe, manager of transmission line engineering for American Electric Power Service Corporation (AEPSC), the proposed line would tap into the Abington–Wolf Hills 138-kV circuit – located on the existing Saltville–Kingsport line – about one-third of a mile southwest of the company’s existing Abingdon substation. The line would loop through the proposed South Abingdon substation to provide a new 138-kV source that will address the area’s distribution load growth and reliability issues, Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe noted that the Washington County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors have approved the proposed substation as being substantially in accord with the county’s comprehensive plan.

No zoning approvals are required, Bledsoe said, adding that the preferred route generally runs north to south through some of the last remaining undeveloped windows in the project area, avoiding residences and land use conflicts to the extent practical.

The application seeks approval of a 500-foot corridor in which a 100-foot ROW will be located, Bledsoe said, noting that the corridor is necessary to allow the flexibility to address issues that become evident only after completion of final engineering, ground surveys and interviews with landowners. The corridor width is expanded to as much as about 1,100 feet in two limited areas that require greater flexibility.

Bledsoe also said that undergrounding all or part of the transmission line is not a reasonable alternative.

The South Abington Extension is the first of two phases of Appalachian Power’s previously announced Abingdon and Washington County Area Improvements Project, the company said in its statement, adding that it plans to file the second phase of the project by the end of this year.

AEPSC is a subsidiary of AEP.