Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff on Nov. 14 filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) a report recommending that the OPSB find that the basis of need for a 138-kV project has been demonstrated and therefore complies with certain requirements, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the facility include certain conditions.
As noted in the report, AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco), an affiliate of AEP Ohio/Ohio Power Company and a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP), in June filed an application for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the Glencoe-Speidel 138-kV Transmission Line Rebuild Project, which involves installing a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the Glencoe substation and the Speidel substation.
The proposed facility is part of the company’s improvement plan to modernize and improve its transmission system. The existing 69-kV transmission line was built in the 1940s, staff added, noting that the existing structures have reached their end of service life, and would not meet National Electric Safety Code clearance standards for an upgraded 138-kV conductor.
The existing conductors are made of copper and have deteriorated, staff said, adding that the proposed project would be built at 138 kV and would improve reliability, improved service to customers, and faster recovery time during outages.
The company proposes a 100-foot right of way (ROW) for the line, which would incorporate steel poles for support. Near the Village of Bethesda, where residential structures have been built near the 69-kV line over the years, the company is proposing a 50-foot ROW adjacent to those residences, staff added.
Once completed, the new line would replace about 12.7 miles of the existing Glencoe-Speidel 69-kV Transmission Line, which serves areas within Warren, Goshen, and Smith townships of Belmont County. With installation of the new line, the 69-kV line would be taken out of service, staff added.
The company’s preferred route is about 12.7 miles long and predominantly parallels either the northern or southern edge of the existing Glencoe-Speidel 69-kV line ROW. The preferred route would predominantly be offset by about 35 feet to 50 feet from the centerline of the existing 69-kV line in order to allow the existing line to remain in service during construction, staff added.
The Glencoe Station project, where the proposed line originates, was approved in November 2017 by the OPSB and is under construction.
The preferred route exits the Glencoe substation to the south and follows the southern edge of the existing ROW for 1.7 miles to the west, staff added, noting that the route then crosses to the northern edge of ROW for 1.1 miles before crossing back to the southern edge of the ROW for 4.5 miles, crossing Centerville Warnock Road and Chapel Hill Road to a point just east of Watertower Road.
Due to multiple residences in close proximity, the preferred route utilizes the existing centerline for 0.1 mile to avoid encroachments as it crosses Watertower Road before resuming an offset position to the southern edge of the existing ROW just west of Watertower Road.
The route continues on the south edge of the existing ROW for 1.1 mile crossing Hunter Belmont Road. A small substation is avoided by crossing to the northern edge of the existing ROW for 0.1 mile. Staff added that the route returns to the southern edge of the ROW for 0.4 mile before utilizing the existing centerline for 0.9 mile through the Village of Bethesda to avoid encroachments.
The route continues on the northern edge of the existing ROW for 0.6 mile, then utilizes the existing centerline for 0.2 mile before returning to the northern edge of the ROW for 1.8 miles. The final 0.1 mile of the route is on the existing centerline into Speidel station, staff added.
Discussing socioeconomic impacts, staff noted, for instance, that no schools, hospitals, nor parks were identified as being within 1,000 feet of the preferred or alternate routes. Permanent visual impacts would result from the introduction of a new manmade element to the landscape, staff said, noting that aesthetic impacts would vary with the viewer and setting, depending on the degree of contrast between the proposed line and the existing landscape.
Of ecological impacts, staff said, for instance, that the preferred route ROW contains 31 streams, and that the alternate route ROW contains 33 streams. Also, the preferred route ROW contains 10 wetlands and the alternate route ROW contains 15 wetlands.
The company estimates the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route are about $26m and about $25m for the alternate route.
The preferred route would allow the company to build the project while keeping the existing 69-kV transmission line in service, lessening safety and reliability concerns. Because of necessary outage constraints, the alternate route would have to be built in segments, and it would therefore take more than twice as much time to build the alternate route than the preferred route, staff added.
Staff recommended that the OPSB find that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB for the proposed facility include certain conditions.
Those conditions include that the facility be installed on the preferred route; that the company conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities; and that prior to the start of construction, the company finalize coordination of the assessment of potential effects of the proposed facility on cultural resources, if any, with staff and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.
According to the filing, a local public hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 29 in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and an evidentiary hearing will begin on Dec. 12 at the commission’s offices in Columbus, Ohio.