AEP to build transmission line in Washington County

Photo Provided A map shows the possible routings and substation positions for a recently approved AEP transmission line project in Washington County.

MARIETTA — Electricity users in rural areas of Washington County can expect to have more reliable power by 2020 after a modernization project by AEP is finished, the company said Wednesday.

AEP received approval last week from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to build a 138 kv (kilovolt) transmission line between Macksburg and Devola. The 15.7-mile project will include connections to four new substations, AEP said.

The new line will replace an aging 23 kv line, said Erin Miller, an AEP project outreach specialist. The new line will be strung for the most part on 90-foot monopole towers following the route of the existing line.

In its filing with the PUCO, the company noted that the delivery area served by the system, in terms of reliability, has the greatest number of power outages among cooperatives in Ohio, having logged 238 outages with more than 84,000 minutes of power interruption between 2002 and 2015.

The company bought the 23kv system from Monongahela Power in 2005, according to its PUCO filing, and despite improvements such as replacement switches, aggressive tree trimming around lines and other interim efforts, AEP concluded that reliability could be improved only with a higher capacity line.

Miller said no opposition was filed to the project during the PUCO approval process, which began early last year.

In addition to making the system more reliable and robust, the new line will also create better electric service potential for new customers, including industrial concerns. The development of the Utica shale is specifically mentioned by AEP in its PUCO filing as a supporting reason for improving the line.

Miller said the project is part of a larger effort to improve the region’s electrical grid. The Southeast Ohio Area Improvements projects will replace all 23kv lines with 138kv lines, with plans through 2023 to string 70 miles of new lines and build 15 new substations in Washington, Noble and Monroe counties at a cost estimated to be about $300 million. The improvements are being done in conjunction with Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative and Washington Electric Cooperative, Miller said.

“The main driver is reliability, the age of the existing infrastructure,” she said. “Ultimately, reinforcing the transmission system will help support any industrial customers coming into the area.”

Right-of-way clearing and structure work on the Macksburg-Devola project is expected to begin before the end of this quarter, and AEP plans to complete the project before the end of 2019. Miller said some of the work likely will be done by third-party contractors.

Lowell Mayor Steve Weber, whose community is served by the 23kv system, said the town has experienced few adverse effects from power outages.

“We don’t usually get knocked out. Last year, it might have gone out twice,” he said. “We’ve been pretty lucky concerning power outages. Several years ago, it went out once for a day.”