Virginia SCC staff ‘does not oppose’ APCo’s request for approval of 138-kV rebuild project

Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) staff, in a March 1 report filed with the SCC, concluded that American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) Appalachian Power Company (APCo) has reasonably demonstrated the need to build, own, operate and maintain the Bland Area Improvements 138-kV Transmission Line Project.

As noted in the report, APCo last September filed an application with the SCC for approval and issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to build and operate electric transmission facilities in Bland and Wythe counties in Virginia.

The project includes 25.2 miles of transmission line in Virginia, and an additional 0.7 mile of transmission line in Mercer County, W.Va. Citing the application, staff added that the proposed project will replace the Virginia portion of the company’s obsolete, 90-year-old South Bluefield–Bland–Wythe 69-kV sub-transmission line and structures with a new 138-kV transmission line and associated structures, to be located primarily within the same right of way (ROW).

The existing line and proposed line are single-circuit lines. Staff further noted that the proposed project will replace an existing 69-kV substation with a new 138-kV substation, and it includes improvements to a different, existing substation owned by the company, all in support of the proposed line.

The purpose of the proposed rebuild is to provide a comprehensive solution for reliability concerns identified in a load area encompassing Bland and Tazewell counties in Virginia, and Mercer County; replace the existing line, which has reached the end of its useful life; and satisfy APCo’s commitment in its 2003 memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to remove the existing line’s crossing at Rich Mountain. Staff added that the rationale for that relocation is to reduce visual impacts of the line at that location.

The planned in-service date is Dec. 1, 2018. The project’s estimated cost is $75m – that is, about $68.6m for transmission line and structures, and $6.4m for the substation work and related equipment, staff said, adding that the company has noted that based on PJM Interconnection’s cost allocation methodology, 100% of the proposed project cost has been assigned to the AEP Zone.

Staff also said that based on an independent review of the company’s load flow studies, it concludes that the proposed project is the preferred solution to address the electrical violations identified by the company.

The thermal and voltage violations identified by the company are projected to occur during winter 2018-2019 peak loading conditions under certain contingency events, including that upon the loss of the Glen Lyn–Hatcher section of the Glen Lyn–South Princeton 138-kV circuit, followed by the loss of the Jim Branch–Switchback 138-kV circuit, the Tazewell–South Bluefield 138-kV circuit will overload to 428.8 MVA, or 130% of its winter emergency capability. That violates AEP’s thermal criteria filed with FERC, staff said.

Staff said it concurs with the company that the existing 69-kV line is at the end of its useful life and must be replaced, and that the process will also satisfy the company’s obligations under the MOU between the company and USFS.

In addition, staff said that the route proposed for the line minimizes cost, new ROW requirements, and the impact on existing residences, scenic assets, historic districts and the environment.

Staff noted that the company’s preferred route consists of “Alternative Segment 1 for the North Focus Area,” “Alternative Segment 4 for the Central Focus Area,” and “Alternative Segment 6 for the South Focus Area,” all combined with the “Rebuild Segments.” No residences are located within the 100-foot ROW of any of the three selected alternative segments, staff said.

According to a description of the proposed route, starting at APCo’s South Bluefield substation, which is located in Bluefield, W.Va., the rebuild starts southeastward in APCo’s existing 69-kV line ROW, ascends East River Mountain for about 0.7 mile, and enters Bland County, Va., at the ridge of the mountain.

Continuing southeast for about 1.5 miles, the line descends East River Mountain and ascends Buckhorn Mountain. At the ridge of Buckhorn Mountain, the rebuild diverges to the southwest from the existing 69-kV line ROW, crosses State Route 61 to intersect with the existing ROW of the Jacksons Ferry–Wyoming 765-kV transmission line, where it turns to the south and parallels the 765-kV ROW for about 2.2 miles as it ascends Rich Mountain, enters the National Forest, and then turns back to the southeast to rejoin the existing 69-kV line ROW on the south face of Rich Mountain.

The description further noted that the rebuild continues about 6.5 miles southward, crossing State Route 614, the toe of Round Mountain, U.S. Route 52 near the community of Bastian, and Brushy Mountain, and then exits the National Forest near Crab Orchard Lake. The rebuild continues for 0.4 mile and spans U.S. Route 52/State Route 42 near the I-77 Exit No. 52 just west of the community of Bland and then diverges from the existing 69-kV line ROW to the southeast.

The rebuild continues southward adjacent to I-77 for 0.7 mile, enters the proposed substation, exits the substation, re-enters the existing 69-kV line ROW after 0.2 mile, continues for 1.5 miles and crosses from the west to the east side of I-77. Continuing south on the existing 69-kV line ROW for six miles and generally parallel to the I-77 corridor, the rebuild ascends Walker Mountain and enters the National Forest, crosses Little Walker Mountain, exits the National Forest, enters Wythe County, and traverses the western end of Crockett Cove.

The description further noted that near the western toe of Cove Mountain, the rebuild leaves the existing 69-kV line ROW and continues southeastward for 2.2 miles across open grass fields. The rebuild then turns to the east and begins paralleling APCo’s existing Progress Park 138-kV Extension for 2.9 miles and then enters APCo’s existing Progress Park substation, which is located in Wythe County, about two miles east of the Town of Wytheville.

According to APCo, staff said, the preferred route was selected because it maximizes the use of the existing South Bluefield–Bland–Wythe 69-kV ROW; reasonably minimizes adverse impacts on scenic assets, historic districts and the environment; and avoids non-standard design requirements as well as unreasonable costs.

“Accordingly, the staff does not oppose the company’s request that the commission issue the necessary CPCN for the proposed project,” staff said.

As TransmissionHub reported, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in its Nov. 17, 2015, report to the SCC, said that its Office of Wetlands and Stream Protection, along with the state Department of Historic Resources (DHR) concurs with APCo on the company’s preferred route for the proposed project.

“The APCo preferred route consists of the rebuild segments and Alternative Segments 1, 4, and 6,” the DEQ said. “DHR concurs with the preferred route and states that it appears to impact historic resources the least.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3294 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 16 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at