Good News? Maybe…

Reading one of our local papers, I came across this article from Leesburg Today:

Power Companies Eye Another Loudoun Transmission Corridor

(Created: Friday, August 15, 2008 4:02 PM EDT)

Numerous PATH-Allegheny engineers and transmission experts were on hand at Lovettsville elementary School last night to explain three routes being considered as part of a new 500kv high transmission, one of which might pass through northern Loudoun just over a mile north of Lovettsville.

The PATH-West Virginia line is designed to run from the Amos substation near Charleston, WV, to a new substation, Kemptown, MD. Two of the three routes will be selected, and it is possible the most southerly route, which passes across the top of Loudoun, could be selected to avoid the heavy concentration of historic and cultural sites to the north, including the Antietam battlefield.

The transmission line will “help avoid the overload of existing transmission lines, which could threaten the electric power supply and lead to blackouts,” the company said in the fact sheet, proposing the $1.8 billion project as a “backbone expansion” to the regional electric transmission system. The project is targeted for completion in 2012.

According to a company fact sheet, the proposed 250-mile line has been approved by the PJM regional interconnection group, which designates where lines should be constructed, and is designed to maintain reliability of the regional electric grid.

PJM authorities say new lines must be built to address reliability concerns, citing nine power lines at risk of overloading between 2012 and 2022 in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The PATH-Allegheny portion of the project will feature twin 50-mile circuit 500kv circuits, at a cost of $600 million.

The open house, which featured different booths explaining various features of the proposed line, was lightly attended, with PATH-Allegheny staff far outnumbering residents who had stopped by to view the maps and receive information. About 30 members of the public showed up.

Among those who did attend were Del. Joe T. May (R-33), Loudoun Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Lovettsville Mayor Elaine Walker. The three elected representatives were given a presentation by PATH-Allegheny staff.

According to project General Manager Mike Hosier, contracts were awarded in February, engineering and surveys were completed in April and the company spent June identifying possible corridors. Open houses in the affected areas are being held this month and the preferred route will be chosen by the end of next month, Hosier said. Final route selection will be made in October or November, with filings before the different state commissions scheduled by the end of the year.

Hosier said he hoped to have the commissions’ approvals by January 2010, followed by construction starting in February 2010 and completion in June 2012.

If the line through Loudoun were to be selected it would involve using an existing Allegheny right of way that is adjacent to the Dominion Virginia Power Company right of way.

The new 500kv line would be an “overbuild,” in which the existing 138kv line that provides local power would be redesigned and the new line built above it. Because the existing right of way would be used, only another 100 feet of right of way would be required, for a total of 360 feet in total, according to company representatives.

Both Walker and Kurtz expressed relief that option would be used.

“At least I’m glad to hear they’re not going to take another 200- 400, or 500-foot swipe down the mountain and across the countryside,” Walker said this morning.

She also said she hoped the company would follow up on May’s proposal that they choose a more aesthetically pleasing tower than the huge lattice towers, which Walker bluntly told the company staff were “monsters.”

May said he thought the H-shaped monopole towers were much more graceful, calling the lattice towers ugly, and asked the staff to seriously consider that option.

“The tubular monopoles are much nicer, if you’re not having to have them underground,” he said.

May also asked that the company not follow the “scorched earth” clear-cutting practices of some power companies in the past, noting that in Denmark he had seen the vegetation “tapered” into the woods and meadows so effectively that one almost did not know whether the right of way began.

“Don’t clear cut, it just aggravates the problem,” he said, noting that legislation he had sponsored last year in the Virginia Assembly included provisions to soften the appearance of the right of way.

He also said that softening the appearance of the substation is important, noting that Dominion has worked to improve its planned Hamilton substation for the 234kv line from Pleasant View east of Leesburg by erecting an earthen berm around it and planting it with low growing native species.

Kurtz said she was thankful that the poles suggested would be side by side, and the build over lines to minimize the impact. But she also was concerned about viewsheds, noting that to a tourist that equates with something beautiful. She also noted that the line will cross the two major northern entrances to Loudoun-Rt. 287 and Rt.15.

Kurtz recommended that area residents check the Web site for information on the project and to review the relevant maps.

May said today his initial conclusion was the line would be relatively painless to Loudoun, because if that route is selected, it only cuts through a small portion. He was pleased, he said, that PATH-Allegheny seemed to have been affected by the public opposition to the Dominion line over the past few years and had done its home work.

“If they can make the right of way aesthetically pleasing, that would be to everyone’s benefit,” he said.

He also appreciated the presentation before the three elected representatives, noting “we’re hearing the same thing all together.”

One of the problems with the Dominion line was that “we didn’t have a unified, consistent source of information,” May said, adding he hoped the company would repeat the exercise in December.

A leading proponent of underground cable, May said he did not see any real expectation that could occur in this instance.

But, he disputed an assertion by a PATH-Allegheny engineer earlier that the technology for undergrounding a 500kv line did not exist.

“It does exist,” May said, citing projects in Japan and China.

While on a trip with his grandson to Atlanta, May said he fell into conversion with a man who turned out to be an engineer with South Wire, which has been testing underground cable for nine years, and who had heard of Virginians’ efforts to put transmission lines underground.

“It’s on its way,” May said.

The power line issue is related to several endangered battlefields designated by CWPT.  Seems like the right questions are being asked, and to a degree answered.  Power companies are at least acknowledging the concerns raised with regard to preservation and viewsheds.  Nice ideas about overbuild, using aesthetically pleasing towers, and tapered tree lines.  Only 100 feet of new easement. But after navigating around the web site which was referenced by Supervisor Sally Kurtz, because I’m inquisitive, I cannot locate the referenced maps or project information.

Which is why I say this may be good news.


One thought on “Good News? Maybe…

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