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    Appalachian Power plans Logan County transmission grid upgrade to reduce electric reliability struggles

    January 25, 2023 - Mike Tony


      To live in West Virginia is to endure more than one’s share of power struggles.

      West Virginia electric ratepayers captive to monopoly providers have long dealt with some of the nation’s greatest power-outage durations and frequencies, according to federal data.

      The state finished dead last in reliability and overall performance in a ranking of electric utility performance among all states released last year by the Citizens Utility Board, an Illinois consumer advocate group.

      Appalachian Power’s West Virginia coverage area ranked in the highest 3% of all 958 listed utilities nationwide in outage minutes per year and outage minutes per interruption and highest 9% in frequency of nonmomentary electric interruptions in 2021, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

      Appalachian Power failed to meet a minimum target approved by state utility regulators for the average minutes it takes to restore nonmomentary electric interruptions in 2021, according to a report it filed last year with the Public Service Commission.

      Now, Appalachian Power is making a move in Logan County it says will help improve electric reliability for area customers. The company is planning a project to replace an electric transmission line from the 1930s that consists of deteriorating wooden poles with modern steel poles and new wires.

      Appalachian Power announced last week that its representatives will host a community open house to share plans for what it’s calling the Becco Area Transmission Improvements Project.

      The project includes construction of 7 miles of 138-kilovolt transmission line, 10 miles of 69-kilovolt transmission line to be operated at 46-kilowatt standards, and the Argyle and Tin Branch substations. The project also includes retiring 24 miles of 46-kilowatt transmission line, and the Pine Gap and Dehue substations.

      Appalachian Power expects construction to start in fall 2025 and finish in spring 2027.

      Appalachian Power has invited community members and landowners in the project area to attend an in-person open house scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Man High School gymnasium, 800 East McDonald Ave., in Man.

      The company has encouraged residents to attend the open house to review project details, talk with project representatives and provide feedback on route options. There is no formal presentation, so attendees can arrive at any time during the two-hour event.

      Area landowners can expect to get a packet in the mail that includes additional project details and a comment card they can return with their feedback, Appalachian Power said, adding that landowners are encouraged to provide input by Jan. 25.

      Appalachian Power has pledged that the project will strengthen the electric grid to reduce outages for the Whitman area, currently served by the Pine Gap substation, and the Argyle area, currently served by the Dehue substation.

      The project team plans to use feedback from landowners and additional field work to determine a power line route that minimizes impact on the community and environment, Appalachian Power said in a news release.

      Right-of-way discussions are slated to begin this fall.

      Equipment failure was responsible for more than 4,100 sustained interruptions in 2021, the second-most common cause of sustained interruptions behind only trees outside rights-of-way (over 4,700). Those figures don’t include major-event days in which sustained interruption duration for the average customer doesn’t exceed a certain threshold.

      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.

      More information about the planned project is available at


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