Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 19, 2014

Electrical grid: Infrastructure upgrade important

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Appalachian Power is seeking regulatory approval for $130 million in proposed upgrades to its existing electric transmission infrastructure in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. The work is important in light of the region’s aging electrical grid.

Areas specifically targeted for the infrastructure upgrade include Tazewell, Buchanan and McDowell counties. The company says the Virginia project, which will cost $50 million, includes a new substation in Buchanan County and improvements at three existing substations in Tazewell County. The company also plans to build about eight miles of new 138-kilovolt transmission lines in Tazewell and Buchanan counties. About 8.5 miles of an existing 69-kilovolt line in Tazewell County also will be upgraded to 138 kilovolts, along with about 3.5 miles of the line in West Virginia, the Associated Press reported last week.

In West Virginia, the company plans to spend $80 million to upgrade transmission infrastructure in McDowell County. That project includes the retiring and removing of 35 miles of 88-kilovolt transmission line and upgrading about 17 miles of a 34.5-kilovolt to 88-kilovolt transmission line to 138 kilovolts. Two substations will be removed, and three new substations will be constructed in the county. Improvements also are planned at other substations.

Wood H-frame tower structures also will be replaced with steel H-frame structures in both states. The steel structures are taller and sturdier, according to the company.

Both projects are expected to be completed in 2017, and both require approval by Virginia and West Virginia regulators. Informational workshops will be held Feb. 24 at Tazewell Middle School and Feb. 25 at Richlands High School. A third session will be held Feb. 27 at Southside Middle School in War. All three meetings will run from 5 to 8 p.m.

Area residents who are interested in obtaining additional information, or who may have comments or concerns about the proposed infrastructure upgrade projects, should attend the meetings.

As it stands now, it’s no secret that the region’s electrical grid is aging. And unfortunately, many families in our area have come to not only expect but also prepare for the possibility of power outages when inclement weather strikes. Many have gone for days without electricity following storms of recent history, including the powerful derecho event in 2011.

That’s why it is important to upgrade and reinforce the existing electrical grid. And while it remains to be seen what, if any, of the project cost will ultimately be passed on to company customers, the proposed upgrades are nevertheless important and merit full consideration.