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Allegheny Power Transmission Expansion Planned
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Project Overview

The high voltage electric power transmission lines within West Virginia constitute an interconnected grid with lines in 12 other states. This grid is operated by an independent operator known as the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnect, i.e. PJM. A comprehensive web site of up-to-date information is maintained in the public interest by PJM at: .

The PJM board has approved a five-year program designed to maintain the reliability of the transmission grid in the Mid-Atlantic region. The plan, which was proposed in a regional planning study released by PJM in May, includes construction of approximately 210 miles of 500-kV transmission lines within Allegheny’s transmission zone.

Specifically, the plan calls for construction of a new 500-kV line extending from southwestern Pennsylvania to West Virginia to northern Virginia. The project has a targeted completion date of 2011. Preliminary cost estimates for Allegheny’s portion of the project and other upgrades are in excess of $850 million.

The initial step in constructing the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line (TrAIL) is to site the line. Allegheny Power is in the process of gathering data on land use and environmental constraints, which will allow them to investigate alternative line routes. 

The company in August hired The Louis Berger Group, Inc. in Alliance with Commonwealth Associates, to help identify possible routes. Using extensive data collection and public input, Allegheny will choose the preferred route and seek approval from the necessary state regulatory commissions to build the line. The new transmission line is expected to cross portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

Q: Why is this transmission expansion needed?
The line addresses imminent reliability problems and PJM’s approval directs immediate action by Allegheny and Dominion to construct the line. PJM’s planning process indicated a need for a new line to mitigate overloading on the Pruntytown-Mt. Storm, the Mt. Storm-Doubs and the Black Oak-Bedington 500kV lines. Throughout the PJM region, the demand for electricity has increased significantly, while the transmission infrastructure has not increased at a proportional pace. This has led to greater reliability risks and higher prices for consumers.  Each utility’s transmission system was originally constructed to meet its needs with limited capability to transfer power to neighboring utilities. Now, the combined PJM system serves as an integrated transmission network connecting generators to local distribution systems. Due to the growth in the demand for electricity, additional transmission lines are needed to improve the grid’s reliability and reduce congestion so power can be transferred from where it is generated to where it is needed.

Q: What is congestion?
The points in the transmission grid at which operations cannot take place are known by many terms: transmission constraints, bottlenecks or congestion points. Congestion describes the situation when the flow of electricity on the transmission system is constrained by the physical capacity of the line or associated equipment, such as transformers. These congestion points can limit the flow of power from one region to another, in much the same way that a three-lane highway reduced to two lanes will restrict the flow of traffic.

Q: Is congestion really a problem?
PJM estimates the cost of congestion in 2005 to be more than $1 billion, which is ultimately paid by consumers. On August 8, the U.S. Department of Energy released the National Electric Transmission Congestion Study authorized under the Energy Policy Act, which provides analysis of generation and transmission capacity across the U.S. and identifies critical areas that need attention to meet growing demand. “Electricity congestion increases consumer bills and challenges the reliable delivery of power to our homes. To ensure electricity reliability across the country, it is important that we do everything we can to facilitate investment in new generation and transmission capacity” Director of the Office of Electricity   Delivery and Energy Reliability Kevin Kolevar said.

Q: What is a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor?
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the Department of Energy to identify the areas that are experiencing electric energy transmission capacity constraints, or congestion. The Act provides the FERC authority to make sure these National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors receive priority treatment.

Q: Why should the federal government be involved in the development and maintenance of the U.S. transmission grid?
Congress has charged FERC with overseeing the reliability and security of this critical national infrastructure. One of several ways they are doing this is by promoting and encouraging investment to expand and improve the electric transmission system. Other methods such as encouraging participation in regional transmission organizations such as PJM and review of reliability standards are other areas being considered by them.

Q: When will the precise line route be determined?
Important: the exact route has not been selected. Routes for consideration have been placed on maps, for study by Allegheny Power and the public, particularly property owners in or near the corridors under study.
Initial engineering and line siting planning is underway with the lines targeted for completion in 2011. Construction of the line will make effective use of existing facilities, properties and rights-of-way, according
to Allegheny Power. A specific route in West Virginia will be proposed to the WV Public Service Commission early in 2007. The project will be under consideration there for a number of months. Public input will be solicited during these proceedings. This article was composed from the following web site by Duane Nichols of the MonValley Clean Air Coalition. Some editing and updating was done, based upon the public information meeting held by Allegheny Power in Morgantown on December 12, 2006.

For additional information see: . Additional information and commentary will be provided in the next newsletter.


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