Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) general staff on Feb. 17 recommended that the commission grant Entergy’s (NYSE:ETR) Entergy Arkansas Inc., (EAI), a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CCN) to build, operate, and maintain a new switching station in Jackson County, Ark.
Clark Cotten, senior electrical engineer for the general staff – in his direct testimony filed on behalf of staff with the APSC – also noted that EAI last November filed its application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CCN) to build, operate, and maintain the new four-breaker ring bus switching station – the Mallory switching station – near its existing Newport Industrial 161-kV substation. EAI’s existing Newport to Walnut Ridge 161-kV and EAI’s existing Newport to Jonesboro 161-kV transmission lines would be rerouted to terminate in the Mallory switching station, Cotten said.
The proposed facilities would consist of the switching station, two 161-kV transmission line segments – each about 1.2 miles long, both in a 135-foot-wide right of way (ROW) – to connect the switching station to the Newport to Walnut Ridge line, and two short 161-kV transmission line segments to terminate the Newport to Jonesboro line in the switching station. The switching station would be built on about three acres of land owned by Arkansas Steel Associates, LLC, (ASA), in Jackson County.
According to the company, ROW acquisition is scheduled to begin as soon as the CCN is approved, followed by ROW clearing activities. If approved, construction is estimated to begin in 3Q17, and is expected to be completed in 4Q18, Cotten added.
The total estimated cost for the proposed facilities using the “Proposed Route I” is $15.2m, Cotten said.
According to the company, the proposed facilities are needed to eliminate potential flicker issues around the Newport area, which has an industrial load, ASA, with an alternating current arc furnace. Cotten added that voltage flicker can be observed in lighting systems as visible changes in brightness of lamps due to rapid fluctuations in the voltage of the power supply, and that the proposed facilities eliminate short-term flicker in the Newport area during transmission contingency conditions and allow for maintenance activities to be scheduled without having to wait for a time period when the ASA arc furnace is out of service.
The proposed facilities will also provide additional load serving capacity for the area, Cotten noted.
The proposed facilities were submitted to the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) for stakeholder review for inclusion in “Appendix A” of MISO’s 2016 Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP16) as Project ID 9696, and were approved by the MISO Board last December, Cotten said.
The company has requested a 500-foot variance to either side of the center line of the proposed route to accommodate construction and cultural clearance issues, as well as the legitimate concerns and objections of property owners whose land is being traversed, provided that such deviations or adjustments do not adversely affect other landowners, do not involve significant cost increases, and do not inhibit EAI’s ability to conform the location of the proposed transmission line as closely as possible to existing land use and property lines, Cotten said.
The proposed route was configured to avoid potential wetlands, but for any alterations in the route where forested wetlands occur in areas of the ROW, trees would be removed converting the wetlands to emergent wetlands in those areas, Cotten said. The potential conversion to emergent impacts would be offset through purchase of wetland mitigation credits from an approved mitigation bank, he said.
Jackson County contains eight species listed on the threatened and endangered species list, Cotten said, adding that most of the project is located in, or adjacent to, row crops agricultural fields and does not provide suitable habitat for those species.
He also noted that the proposed route has been aligned along field borders to minimize impacts to farming activities to the extent practicable, but temporary disturbances to farming practices are expected to occur during the construction process. According to the company, farmers have been, and will continue to be, notified of the construction schedule to allow for planning of their farming operations during the construction process, he said.
Cotten noted that there have been no public comments received in the docket as of the date of his filing.
The company has presented evidence that the proposed facilities are needed to eliminate voltage flicker in the Newport area, and the location of the proposed facilities is reasonable as the company, Cotten said.
He also recommended that the APSC grant the company’s request for a 500-foot variance.