Buckhannon-Weston power line to be proposed by FirstEnergy - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Buckhannon-Weston power line to be proposed by FirstEnergy

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A proposed power line between Buckhannon and Weston is one of a set of transmission projects FirstEnergy announced this week.

The projects are needed to ensure system reliability as coal-fired power plants retire, the company said.

They were on a list of 130 transmission upgrades regional grid operator PJM Interconnection approved in mid-May to allow electricity to flow safely along new paths as generation retires in its 13-state territory.

FirstEnergy said it expects to spend $700 million to $900 million on what it is calling its "Energizing the Future" initiative across its five-state service territory.

The proposed Buckhannon-Weston line would have a capacity rating of 138 kilovolts — nowhere near the capacity of the 500-kV-rated Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Allegheny Energy built across northern West Virginia from 2008 to 2011.

And it's relatively short: a specific route has not yet been identified, but it would be about 14 miles long, according to FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin, compared with a couple hundred miles for TrAIL.  

In a demonstration of the extent to which everything on the electric grid is connected, Bill Howley, who follows transmission projects and maintains the blog The Power Line, pointed out that PJM documents make clear that this line is not made necessary by the closures of the Albright, Rivesville and Willow Island power plants in West Virginia, but rather by the closures of other plants, mainly in Ohio.

Because the line is below the 200-kV threshold for lines defined as "high-voltage" in West Virginia, it will not be subject to individual landowner notification requirements, Howley said — it will only have to be advertised in the newspapers in Lewis and Upshur counties.

With a distant in-service date of 2016, the line does not yet appear on FirstEnergy's "transmission projects" web pages.

FirstEnergy will have to apply to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia for a certificate of public convenience and necessity.

Durbin said it's too early to tell when an application will be filed. 

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