The Ohio Power Siting Board, in separate Feb. 21 orders, issued certificates of environmental compatibility and public need to AEP Ohio Transmission Company, Inc., (AEP Ohio Transco) for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Vigo-Pine Ridge Switch 138-kV Transmission Line Project and the Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner 138-kV Transmission Line Project, subject to certain conditions.
In its order regarding the Vigo-Pine Ridge Switch project, the OPSB said that it adopts an October 2018 stipulation and recommendation between AEP Ohio Transco and regulatory staff, and directs that a certificate be issued to the company for the construction of the project.
As noted in that order, AEP Ohio Transco in March 2018 filed its application for a certificate, stating that the proposed line will improve service for customers, reduce power outages, and speed recovery of service when outages occur.
AEP Ohio Transco proposes to place the line in service in spring 2022.
The company seeks to build the project in Ross and Jackson counties, the OPSB added, noting that the proposed right of way (ROW) width for the project is 100 feet. Both proposed routes predominantly utilize the existing 69-kV ROW, thus minimizing the additional ROW needed for the proposed line. The OPSB added that AEP Ohio Transco estimates the intangible and capital costs for the preferred route are about $20.7m, and the alternate route are about $21.2m.
The OPSB also noted that staff has concluded that the company demonstrated the basis of need for the project due to the reliability issues caused by the age and condition of the existing 69-kV transmission system. Staff has also found that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact. The OPSB added that staff recommended several conditions that should minimize the impacts associated with clearing and other construction activities.
The conditions agreed to by the parties in the stipulation include that the facility is to be installed on the preferred route, utilizing the equipment, construction practices, and mitigation measures as presented in the application filed in March 2018, and further clarified by recommendations in a staff report, the OPSB said.
The OPSB said that it “finds that, as a package, the stipulation benefits the public interest by resolving the issues raised in this matter without resulting in litigation. The stipulation reflects consideration of staff’s recommendations and conditions. We find that, based on the evidence of record, the proposed project will help ensure that increased demands for electricity are met in the future, enhance existing reliability service, and increase tax revenue for schools and local government.”
In its order regarding the Pine Ridge Switch-Heppner project, the OPSB said that it adopts a stipulation and recommendation between AEP Ohio Transco and staff, and directs that a certificate be issued to the company to rebuild, to 138-kV standards, 3.6 miles of the Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line, located between the Pine Ridge switch and the proposed Heppner station in Jackson County.
As noted in the order, AEP Ohio Transco in March 2018 filed its application with the board for a certificate, stating that the proposed rebuild of the existing 69-kV transmission line to 138-kV standards will provide the benefit of faster recovery of service after outages, fewer service interruptions, and overall improved service to customers.
The project involves the installation of a new 138-kV overhead electric transmission line between the Pine Ridge switch and the proposed Heppner station to 138-kV standards. The new line would replace 3.6 miles of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line, which has been in service since 1926, the OPSB added, noting that the line serves customers in Ross and Jackson counties.
Upon installation of the new line, the 69-kV line will be removed from service, and the new line will operate at 69 kV until customer load necessitates 138-kV service. ‘
The OPSB added that AEP Ohio Transco identified a preferred and alternate route after conducting a rebuild siting study, with the preferred route being about 3.6 miles long. For the most part, the route parallels either the northern or southern edge of the existing Berlin-Ross 69-kV transmission line ROW. The OPSB added that the new line would be offset by about 25 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.
The preferred route exits the Pine Ridge switch and follows the existing 69-kV line, along the southern edge of the ROW for about 0.9 miles, through forested and agricultural land. The OPSB also said that the preferred route then aligns with the alternate route for about 0.3 miles as the line crosses U.S. Highway 35. The line then crosses the Berlin-Ross line to the northern edge of the ROW and continues through forested and agricultural land for about 0.8 miles to the southeast. The line continues through forested, agricultural, and residential areas across the southern edge of the ROW of the Berlin-Ross line for about 1.6 miles southeast to the proposed Heppner station, the OPSB added.
AEP Ohio Transco estimates the applicable intangible and capital costs for the preferred route at about $8.4m, and the alternate route at about $8.7m.
According to staff, the OPSB added, the 92-year-old line has a poor performance history and extended outage recovery times. Staff concludes that the company has demonstrated the basis of need due to the reliability issues caused by the age of the existing 1926 transmission line. The OPSB added that staff has also concluded that the preferred route represents the minimum adverse environmental impact when compared to the alternate route.
As part of the stipulation – which was presented at an adjudicatory hearing in October 2018 – the parties recommend that the OPSB issue the certificate requested by AEP Ohio Transco, subject to certain conditions, which include that the facility is to be installed on the preferred route, utilizing the equipment, construction practices, and mitigation measures as presented in the application filed in March 2018, and further clarified by recommendations in a staff report.
Among other things, the OPSB said that it finds “that, based on the evidence, the proposed transmission line is required to improve and maintain the quality of service in southern Ohio, where AEP Ohio Transco has identified a critical need to reinforce its transmission system in order to maintain and improve the quality and reliability of electric service in the area which is currently served by an aging 69 kV system.”