Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff on Nov. 16 recommended that the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) find that the basis of need for AEP Ohio Transmission Company’s (AEP Ohio Transco) 138-kV project has been demonstrated and complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include such conditions as the company adhering to seasonal cutting dates of Oct. 1 through March 31 for removal of trees, unless coordination efforts with certain agencies allow a different course of action.
As noted in the report, AEP Ohio Transco would own, build, operate, and maintain the proposed Speidel-Barnesville 138-kV Transmission Line in Belmont County, Ohio. The proposed project involves installing a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the existing Speidel substation and a planned Barnesville distribution substation. To meet 138-kV standards, a 100-foot right of way (ROW) is proposed by the company for the new single circuit transmission line, which would incorporate steel poles for support, staff added.
The project would rebuild the existing Speidel-Barnesville 69-kV Transmission Line, which was built in 1914, and serves the village of Barnesville. The rebuilt line would continue to serve the village of Barnesville with 69-kV transmission service, but would be built to 138-kV design standards, staff added.
Construction of a planned 138/12-kV distribution substation would replace the existing Barnesville substation south of the village, staff said, adding that as the region develops, the transmission line would be operated at 138-kV to serve the additional future load.
The preferred route is about 3.7 miles long, and predominately parallels the existing Speidel-Barnesville 69-kV Transmission Line. That route would be offset by about 25 feet from the centerline of the existing 69-kV line in order to ensure safer construction and reliability and to allow the existing line to remain in service during construction, staff added.
The preferred route exits the existing Speidel substation and follows the existing 69-kV line to the south and southwest for about 2.8 miles. Staff also said that the preferred route splits off the existing 69-kV route just south of Grace Avenue. For 0.9 miles, the preferred route traverses open pasture and wooded land to the south and southwest, until it reaches the planned Barnesville distribution substation, south of the village of Barnesville, staff said.
Staff said that the company has demonstrated the basis of need for the project due to the reliability problems caused by the increasing load and the age of the existing 69-kV line. The proposed facility would allow the transmission system to provide safe and reliable electric service, while meeting all the applicable planning criteria, staff said.
The company estimates the total applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $16.6m, staff said.
The preferred route would require 6.7 acres of tree clearing and the company has committed to restricted tree clearing to the seasonal clearing period of Oct. 1 through March 31 to avoid any potential impacts to the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat, staff said.
The project would result in temporary and permanent impacts to the project area, staff said, noting that there is a higher potential for disruption of more residences and businesses in general along the alternate route, as the preferred route crosses fewer properties, and is rerouted from the existing centerline where buildings encroach into the ROW, particularly within the village of Barnesville.
Staff recommended that the OPSB find that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include such conditions as that prior to construction, the company prepare and conduct a Phase I cultural resources survey program for the line, laydown area(s), and access roads acceptable to staff and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.
Other conditions include that the company avoid, where possible, or minimize to the maximum extent practicable, any damage to field tile drainage systems and soils resulting from construction, operation, and/or maintenance of the facility in agricultural areas, staff said.
AEP Ohio Transco is a transmission-only affiliate of AEP Ohio/Ohio Power Company, and is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).