Electric reliability has been a long-term problem for Appalachian Power, whose customers have had to endure some of the longest and most frequent power outages in the country in recent years.
The company announced a move Wednesday to improve reliability for area customers.
Appalachian Power made public a proposed route for a transmission line project in Fayette County that includes building 15 miles of 69-kilovolt transmission line and two new substations, and upgrading area substations.
The upgrade will allow Appalachian Power to retire 10 miles of transmission line consisting of deteriorating wooden poles and steel towers installed in 1913, the company said.
The project is slated to start at an existing substation off Kingston Road in Kincaid, with the upgrades traveling east some 9 miles and connecting to a new substation to be located off Maple Road in Fayetteville. The upgrades are planned to continue northeast roughly 6 miles to an existing substation near Route 19 in Fayetteville.
Appalachian Power said the right-of-way contractor representing the company plans to contact directly involved landowners in the coming months to discuss acquiring easements and what to expect before, during and after construction. Company representatives expect construction to begin in spring 2023 and conclude by the end of 2024.
Company crews intend to build the transmission line using steel H-frame poles, lattice towers, and single-pole as well as three-pole structures ranging from 85 to 110 feet high, with a right-of-way width of about 100 feet.
Right-of-way activities are scheduled to start in spring 2022, with tree clearing to begin in fall 2022.
Appalachian Power said it determined the proposed power line route after reviewing input provided by landowners and community members following the company’s project announcement, and virtual open house and town halls in June.
The company acknowledged in a news release announcing the proposed transmission line route that the power line has experienced outages in recent years.
Appalachian Power and fellow American Electric Power subsidiary Wheeling Power have failed to meet minimum targets approved by West Virginia utility regulators for the reliability of their electric power systems in recent years.
The two subsidiaries of American Electric Power improved in measures of how long and often their power was interrupted last year compared to 2019, but still had worse numbers than they did before they moved in 2014 to a vegetation management system intended to boost reliability, according to data filed with the state Public Service Commission earlier this year.
West Virginia topped the country in total outages and percentage of outages for most of the week following February’s ice storms, according to national outage trackers powered by Data Fusion Solutions and Bluefield Studios LLC.
That’s in line with a Gazette-Mail review of seven years of nationwide electric reliability data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The review found outages have grown longer and more frequent for customers in West Virginia since 2013, outpacing national increases in those categories.
Appalachian Power’s average yearly duration of outages for its West Virginia customers has consistently been among the nation’s highest. The company has attributed that in part to the state’s mountainous, heavily forested terrain complicating vegetation management.
Reliability reports the West Virginia Public Service Commission requires utilities to file annually indicate that trees or other vegetation outside rights-of-way were the most common cause of outages for all the investor-owned utilities serving the state in 2020.
An interactive map of the proposed power line route can be found at AppalachianPower.com/Kincaid.