Petit Jean Electric Cooperative Corporation (PJECC), in a March 1 order signed by an Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) administrative law judge (ALJ), was granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CCN) to build, operate, and maintain a project that involves an approximately 7.1-mile, 161-kV transmission line.
As noted in the order, PJECC in July 2016 filed an application with the APSC seeking a CCN to build, own, and operate a line from PJECC’s existing Bee Branch substation, and running south, then west, to PJECC’s new Damascus substation. PJECC in November 2016 filed an amendment to the application, amending the proposed route of the proposed line, referred to in the order as the “Amended Proposed Route,” or “Alternative 1.”
As noted in the order, the proposed line and new Damascus substation are needed to provide service to a new 5,000-kW large power customer, relieve substation loading, provide for proper voltage, and improve reliability in the Bee Branch and Quitman substation areas.
According to PJECC, the load imposed on the Bee Branch substation is expected to exceed the station’s ratings in 2018 under extreme winter weather conditions, and the Quitman substation is expected to reach about 90% of its maximum load rating during the same time frame. According to PJECC, those high load levels can damage substation equipment if an overload occurs, as well as limit the cooperative’s ability to backfeed one substation from another during outages, reducing area reliability.
PJECC also said that with the loads expected under extreme winter weather conditions, analysis indicates that several circuits in the Bee Branch and Quitman substations will have voltage drops in excess of the Rural Utility Service (RUS) limits, and without the addition of the Damascus substation, significant distribution upgrades would be needed to bring the forecast voltage drops to within RUS-established limits.
As originally proposed, the order added, the line’s route would originate at the Bee Branch substation and parallel an existing transmission line in a southeasterly direction for about 0.6 miles, at which point it turns south for about 4.4 miles, with a few minor variations to avoid certain property uses, but generally following property boundaries. At that point, the route turns southwest for about 0.6 miles, meeting U.S. Highway 65, and continuing parallel to Highway 65 on the westward side for another mile, then turning west about 0.5 miles to terminate at the Damascus substation. The amendment filed last November to the proposed route includes a minor change at the point where the route turns west, leaving Highway 65 to terminate at the Damascus substation.
According to PJECC, the amended proposed route avoids a residential property by moving the line to traverse between two commercial properties, adding about 300 feet to the route. The order also noted that the amended proposed route reduces the amount of new disturbed land by using an existing distribution line easement for the part of the amended route.
The total estimated cost for the proposed facilities using the amended proposed route is $6.6m, the order said.
APSC staff has concluded that the proposed facilities are needed, and are in the public interest. Staff, the order added, recommended that PJECC affirm that it will follow the tree clearing restrictions for federally listed bats, including the Northern Long Ear Bat, as noted by the RUS. PJECC has stated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires roost trees to be cleared between Nov. 1 and March 31, and that PJECC intends to clear all roost trees by March 31, 2017.
Among other things, the order said that PJECC is to ensure construction methods and activities in the field meet U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Organization requirements; construction was scheduled to begin in the spring.