AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) in late June filed an application with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the company’s proposed Speidel–Barnesville 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project.
The existing line provides 69-kV transmission service to the city of Barnesville, the company said in its application, noting that the rebuilt line would continue to serve the city with 69-kV transmission service, but would be built to 138-kV design standards. Construction of a new 138/12-kV distribution substation at the Barnesville terminus of the project is planned and would ultimately enable to operation of the new line at 138 kV, the company said.
As noted in the application, the company proposes to rebuild the existing 3.5-mile line in Belmont County, which has been in service since 1914, and has deteriorated to a level that no longer meets American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) Transmission Line Engineering Standards.
Rebuilding the line would mitigate issues associated with the deterioration of the line and allow for the line to be rebuilt 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 do occur, the company said.
The project is part of a larger program of improvements to the existing transmission service in eastern Ohio where AEP Ohio Transco 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.
While the physical age and condition of the facilities is the most pressing reason to upgrade the line, the decision to upgrade 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 shale play and AEP Ohio Transco anticipates load growth connecting either directly to the line or being served through pathways for which the line would be required.
The company also said that the proposed project would extend from the existing Speidel station to the proposed Barnesville station for a total length of about 3.7 miles. The project would be built as a single circuit steel pole line with alternating zero degree braced post insulators or strain insulators on dead ends, the company said.
Noting that two primary routes were considered for the project, the company said that the preferred route would be built primarily within the existing right of way (ROW) offset by about 25 feet to allow for construction while the existing line remains in service. The preferred route minimizes impacts to adjacent land use and allows for greater service reliability through diversions and offset construction. The company added that 18 residences were identified within 100 feet and 463 within 1,000 feet of the preferred route, while 70 residences are within 100 feet and 711 are within 1,000 feet of the alternate route.
AEP Ohio Transco said that it plans to begin construction on the project in the fall or winter of 2016, and that the project has an estimated in-service date of fall 2017.
According to the company’s website, the project is an approximate $5m investment.
Discussing land use, the company noted, for instance, that no adverse impacts to recreational land uses are anticipated as a result of the project.
The company also said that 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.
Of the proposed facility’s visibility, the company said that the viewsheds along the preferred and alternate routes from residences and potentially sensitive vantage points may be altered by the presence of the transmission line. The area is mostly farmland and gently rolling forested hills, the company said, adding that many roads in the area are paralleled by wood poles supporting distribution lines. On balance, the addition of the proposed project will not have a significant negative impact on the overall visual landscape, AEP Ohio Transco said. At select locations, there may be an incremental change in the viewshed, including for some residences, the Tilton-Tiltonville Cemetery (preferred route), and the Chapman Cemetery (preferred route), and where tree clearing is required, the company said.
The company said that it has limited the potential aesthetic impacts of the transmission line to the extent possible through the route selection process and using an existing 69-kV ROW.
The potential impacts on woody and herbaceous vegetation along the preferred and alternate routes would be limited to clearing within the proposed transmission line ROW and potentially along access roads. However, the company added, where required, trees adjacent to the proposed transmission line ROW that are dead, dying, diseased, leaning, significantly encroaching or prone to failure, may require clearing to allow for safe operation of the transmission line.
About 50 feet of clearing on either side of the centerline would be required to be maintained along either the preferred or alternate route, the company said, adding that the preferred route would require about 6.7 acres of forest clearing, and the alternate route would require about four acres of forest clearing.
Clearing of potential Indiana bat roost trees, if any, would be restricted to occur only within the period from Oct. 1 through March 31, to avoid any potential impact to summer tree-roosting bats, the company said.
Among other things, the company said that to avoid impacting federal and state-listed fish and mussel species, no in-stream water work is proposed for the project.