The two largest electric companies in West Virginia say millions of dollars of upgrades approved by the region’s grid operator will maintain reliable electric power supplies in the wake of recently announced power plant retirements.
Upgrades at Appalachian Power Co., FirstEnergy, and other electric utilities were approved Thursday by PJM, the region’s grid operator.
Appalachian Power, a unit of American Electric Power, serves almost 500,000 customers across southern West Virginia and a like number in Virginia.
Spokeswoman Jeri Matheney said projects approved for American Electric Power and its subsidiaries in West Virginia total about $300 million. The projects include:
- Construction of a new transmission line along the route of an existing line that links a transmission station next to the Kanawha River plant at Glasgow and the Amos plant near Winfield at an estimated cost of $150 million.
- A new interconnection at the Philip Sporn plant at New Haven, a new transformer at the Mountaineer plant at New Haven, and the construction of a 3/4-mile high voltage line to Sporn at a total cost of $65 million.
- Improvements at the Kammer transmission station near Moundsville at a cost of $60 million.
- Improvements to a 13-mile transmission line linking the Kammer transmission station to a site in West Bellaire, Ohio, southwest of Wheeling, at a cost of $20 million.
American Electric Power announced in March that it would retire more than 4,600 megawatts of coal-fired power generation, primarily to comply with a series of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
As previously reported, the company’s Appalachian Power unit plans to close three plants in West Virginia: Kanawha River, Kammer and Sporn.
At the time the closures were announced Nick Akins, American Electric’s president and chief executive officer, said, “We continue to have serious concerns about the potential impact these plant retirements – and retirements of generation announced by other utilities – will have on the reliability of the electricity grid.
“Our retiring units were required to run to meet peak demand last summer, and little new generation is scheduled to come on line prior to the retirement dates to replace this lost generating capacity.”
Matheney said of the approved upgrades, “This is our solution to ensuring the reliability of the grid. We will have to invest in transmission to shore up our infrastructure because of the plant closings.”
The upgrades will be done between now and June 2015 when the plants scheduled for closure are shuttered, she said.
FirstEnergy, the successor to Allegheny Energy, serves 522,000 customers in northern West Virginia. The company’s largest approved project in West Virginia is the construction of a new transmission line linking Buckhannon and Weston at an estimated cost of $17.5 million.
In February FirstEnergy announced it will close its Albright Power Station in Preston County; its Willow Island Power Station on the Ohio River in Pleasants County; and its Rivesville Power Station near Fairmont in Marion County.
Mark Durbin, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said that when the plant retirements were announced, PJM conducted an analysis and determined that not much needed to be done to bolster the grid in the company’s West Virginia service territory.
Durbin said most of FirstEnergy’s work will be in the Cleveland area, where several of the company’s power plants will be retired.
The PJM region includes 60 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
PJM’s Interconnection Board approved a total of nearly $2 billion in electric transmission upgrades.
Since November, power plant owners in the region have announced plans to retire nearly 14,000 megawatts of generation by the end of 2015, PJM said. That’s enough power to supply the state of Indiana’s needs for a year.
Contact writer George Hohmann at busin…@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.