AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) on July 1 filed an application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) for the company’s proposed Barnesville–Summerfield 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project.
The company said that it proposes to rebuild the existing 15.8-mile line in Belmont, Guernsey and Noble counties in Ohio, which has been in service since 1943 and has deteriorated to a point that no longer meets American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) transmission line engineering standards.
The rebuild line would extend from the site of the proposed Barnesville station to the existing Summerfield station.
Rebuilding the line would mitigate the issues associated with deterioration of the line and allow for the line to be built to current design standards, the company said. The proposed project would improve local service for customers, decrease power interruptions, improve system resiliency, and speed recovery of local service when outages occur, AEP Ohio Transco said.
The project is part of a larger program of improvements to the existing transmission service network in eastern Ohio, where the company has identified a critical need to reinforce its transmission system to maintain and improve the quality and reliability of electric service in the area, the company said.
The existing 69-kV line provides service to the Village of Barnesville, the company said, adding that while the physical age and condition of the facilities are the most pressing reasons to upgrade the line, the decision to upgrade the line to 138-kV design specifications is driven by other factors, including that the line is located in one of the more active regions of the Marcellus/Utica shale play and AEP Ohio Transco anticipates load growth connecting either directly to the line or being served via the through path of which the line is a part.
To meet current 138-kV standards, the new line would require a wider, 100-foot right of way (ROW), which may result in impacts to some areas due to adjacent development, the company said.
Two primary routes were considered for the project, and the preferred route would be built primarily within the existing ROW offset by about 25 feet to allow for construction while the existing line remains in service, the company said. The preferred route also includes several deviations from the existing ROW to avoid houses and buildings that would otherwise fall within the newly expanded ROW, the company said.
The preferred route slightly reduces land use impacts by using extended offsets from the standard 25 feet and switching sides of the existing centerline to avoid structures, difficult construction locations due to steep slopes, and in certain cases to address input from property owners, AEP Ohio Transco said, adding that no existing structures are located within the proposed ROW of the preferred route. Three fewer residences are located within 100 feet of the preferred route (eight) as compared to the alternate route (11), even though construction along the centerline (i.e., the alternate route) would maximize the use of the existing ROW, which is already impacted, the company said.
The Barnesville distribution station cannot be readily upgraded to 138/12 kV at its current location because of space limitations, the company said, adding that in the future, it plans to build a new substation with 138/12-kV capability in order to enable the operation of the line at 138 kV. The main difference between the preferred route and the alternate route is the siting of the facilities necessary to reach the location of the new planned 138/12-kV substation, the company said.
AEP Ohio Transco said that it plans to start construction of the transmission line in the fall or winter of 2016, with an estimated in-service date around fall 2017.
According to a March 16 press release about the project included in the application, AEP Ohio Transco plans to invest about $20m in the transmission line.
No adverse impacts to commercial land uses are anticipated as a result of the project, the company said, adding that no adverse impacts to industrial land uses are anticipated as a result of the project.
The likely impacts of the proposed project on agricultural land use associated with construction activities primarily occur in the ROW of the transmission line and include potential damage to current crops, disturbance of underground field drainage systems, compaction of soils and resulting reduction of productivity, and to a lesser extent, disruption of plow patterns, and creation of areas for weeds and other non-crops to grow, the company said.
AEP Ohio Transco also said that a Friendship Lodge is located less than 40 feet from the existing 69-kV line and would be at risk for demolition if the alternate route is selected. No adverse impacts to recreational land uses are anticipated as a result of the preferred route, the company said.
No wildlife areas, nature preserves, or publicly identified conservation areas are crossed by the proposed preferred and alternate routes, the company said.
Among other things, the company noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) indicated that there are no federal wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, or critical habitat within the vicinity of the project.
The USFWS indicated that the project lies within the range of the federally endangered Indiana bat and the federally threatened northern long-eared bat, the company said. The USFWS indicated that due to the project type, size, location, and proposed implementation of seasonal tree cutting – during Oct. 1 and March 31– to avoid impacts to Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats, the agency does not anticipate impacts to any federally endangered, threatened, proposed or candidate species.