The Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), in an Aug. 21 order signed by an Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) administrative law judge, was granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CCN) to build, operate, and maintain transmission facilities – the Baltz Lake switching station – in Randolph County, Ark.
As noted in the order, AECC in late May filed with the APSC an application for a CCN to build, own, and operate the proposed facilities, which involve a new transmission switching facility consisting of a ring bus configuration that will include four circuit breaker positions providing connections to Entergy Arkansas, Inc.’s (EAI) existing Datto to Water Valley transmission line, as well as serving the Pocahontas Industrial Park and the future Ingram substation, which is proposed to be built by Clay County Electric Cooperative Corporation (CCECC) in order to alleviate loading on AECC’s Pocahontas East and West substations.
The proposed facilities will be located adjacent to EAI’s Pocahontas North substation on property that AECC plans to obtain.
The order added that according to an AECC witness, CCECC is experiencing load growth in its territory that is related to a rapidly expanding integrated poultry industry. The Ingram substation will add capacity for CCECC’s expected distribution load growth in the area north of Pocahontas, the order said.
In addition to providing a new transmission source for CCECC, AECC said that the proposed facilities will provide a transmission source for the Pocahontas Industrial Park as plans are to relocate the existing transmission feed from the Pocahontas East substation to the new Baltz Lake switching station in order to provide a ring bus connection for the transmission line.
The order added that the proposed facilities must be built in two phases to coordinate with EAI’s outage schedule of its transmission line. In the first phase, a temporary tap of EAI’s Datto to Water Valley 161-kV transmission line is required to serve CCECC’s Ingram substation. The order also noted that EAI has tentatively scheduled an outage on its line for April 1, 2018, and that the second phase for the permanent proposed facilities has a tentative in-service date of June 1, 2019.
The estimated cost of the proposed facilities is $3.8m, the order said.
AECC consulted with the Arkansas State Historic Preservation Office and a cultural resources survey was conducted; the survey’s results did not identify any cultural resources at the site of the proposed facilities.
The order also noted that AECC consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (referred to as USFWS in the order) regarding possible impacts to endangered species, and the USFWS recommended that a study be conducted specific to the site of the proposed facilities, particularly with regards to the Indiana and Northern Long Eared Bats. A survey, which included placing nets on the property to capture bats, revealed zero listed bats, and as a result, there are no expected impacts to endangered bat species, the order said.
The APSC General Staff in July filed the direct testimony of Jeffrey Roberts, recommending approval of AECC’s application.
The order added that the only parties to the docket are AECC and staff, and both of them agree that there are no contested issues in the docket.
The Baltz Lake Project is included in Appendix A of the Midcontinent ISO’s (MISO) 2015 Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP15) as Project ID 8420, which the MISO approved in December 2015, the order added.
The order noted that the construction of the proposed facilities is found to be needed and in the public interest. Among other things, the order noted that there are no significant engineering or technical concerns associated with the project, and there are no major disruptions of existing or proposed manmade property uses expected. In addition, the order noted that the location of the proposed facilities and its design will minimize the aesthetic displeasure of the construction.