FirstEnergy transmission unit wants approval for Pennsylvania power line

Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Co. (TrAILCo), a unit of FirstEnergy’s FirstEnergy Transmission, in its application filed on Nov. 17 with Pennsylvania state regulators, said that it is proposing to build an about 15.6-mile, 230-kV high voltage transmission line, which will be located on a combination of existing and new right of way with a width of 160 feet.

The Pierce Brook–Lewis Run 230-kV Transmission Line Project is to be located in Lewis Run Borough and Keating, Bradford and Lafayette townships, McKean County, Pennsylvania, the company told the state Public Utility Commission.

The project’s estimated construction cost is about $10.1 million, and the proposed in-service date is Oct. 1, 2017, the company said.

The project consists of the single-circuit Pierce Brook–Lewis Run line that will run between, and interconnect, the Lewis Run substation, which is owned by FirstEnergy‘s Penelec, and the proposed Pierce Brook substation, which is to be owned by TrAILCo, the company said. In connection with the project, Penelec’s existing Lewis Run–Farmers Valley 115-kV HV transmission line will be deactivated, the company said.

The ROW for the Lewis Run-Farmers Valley line is generally 100 feet wide, the company said, adding that under the preferred route that it proposed, the western portions of the project would follow the route of Penelec’s transmission line.

On those western portions of the project, the ROW for the project will be wider – 160 feet – than the ROW of the existing Lewis Run–Farmers Valley line, and will overlap portions of Penelec’s existing ROW.

The company added that while the ROWs overlap in places, TrAILCo purchased its easement directly from the underlying fee owners, and TrAILCo’s easement is separate from, and independent of, Penelec’s ROW.

The project exits the existing Lewis Run substation, located about 270 feet east of U.S. Route 219 and less than one mile north of the intersection of U.S. Route 219 and State Route 4001 (Lafayette Drive). As the project exits the existing substation, the company added, it proceeds southeast, using the existing 115-kV transmission line ROW for about 0.19 mile.

As the project turns east, it continues on an alignment agreed to by local property owners located slightly north of the existing 115-kV transmission line and gradually crosses the location of the existing line in a southeastwardly direction until it crosses the CSX-operated railroad.

At that point, the company added, the route heads northeast and begins to use the existing 115-kV transmission line ROW as it crosses High Street and continues for about 2,955 feet, fully rejoining the existing alignment about 1,100 feet east of High Street. The project then turns southeast for about 1.8 miles, continuing to use the existing 115-kV transmission line ROW and traversing the Bradford Oil Field area, the company said, adding that the project then turns south for about 0.36-mile, crossing Droney Road.

The project then resumes its southeasterly direction for about 1.38 miles and proceeds east for another 2.82 miles, crossing State Highway 646 and continuing to use the existing transmission line ROW and traversing the oil field.

The company added that the project then diverges from the existing 115-kV transmission line ROW and continues through the Bradford Oil Field, turning southeast for about 1.21 miles, then turns east for 1.62 miles as it crosses several access roads associated with gas wells in the vicinity.

The project then turns northeast for 0.58 mile before turning east for 3 miles, spanning the New York State Electric and Gas Stolle Road 345-kV transmission line to a point about 1.3 miles north of the Borough of Smethport. The company added that the project then turns south for about 0.27 mile before turning northeast for 1.65 miles, crossing Potato Creek and East Water Street Extension (State Highway 46) and terminating at the site of the proposed Pierce Brook substation along the southern side of Pierce Brook Road.

An about 0.3-mile portion of the project is located in Bradford Township, a 0.8-mile portion is located in Lewis Run Borough, a 3.1-mile portion is located in Lafayette Township, and an 11.4-mile portion is located in Keating Township, the company added.

Discussing project need, the company noted that between 2013 and 2015, NRG Energy deactivated nine fossil- fueled steam generating units (Portland Units 1 and 2; Shawville Units I, 2, 3 and 4; and Titus Units 1, 2 and 3) and eight combustion turbines (Glen Gardner CTs 1-8) within the PJM Interconnection region.

The deactivation of those units has an impact on the operation of the transmission system that PJM functionally controls, the company said, adding that after NRG first filed notice of its intention to deactivate those units, PJM conducted detailed studies of the effects the deactivations would have on the transmission system in the PJM region.

The results of the deactivation studies indicated that, without the deactivated units, the loss of the Penelec Forest–Glade 230-kV transmission line will increase line loading on the Farmers Valley–Lewis Run line to about 131 percent of its emergency rating under PJM’s Generation Deliverability test, the company said.

Additionally, if a fault were to occur on Penelec’s Forest 230/115-kV transformer, the line loading would be about 127 percent of its emergency rating. The company added that if a fault were to occur on the Forest–Glade line in conjunction with the failure of a 230-kV breaker at the Forest substation and pre-contingency switching of Penelec’s Warren–Falconer 115-kV transmission line, which is the typical operating procedure, the line loading would be about 135 percent of its emergency rating.

The company said that FirstEnergy and PJM determined that the project is the best solution for addressing various contingencies.

FirstEnergy Service Co., on behalf of TrAILCo, retained GAI Consultants to prepare a comprehensive study of the projected environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the project and alternative routes.

As noted in the Alternative Route Analysis prepared by GAI, included with the application, TrAILCo has identified Alternative Route 7 as the preferred route based on its overall minimization of impacts to the natural and socioeconomic environments. Alternative 7 scored well as a result of its generally low to median impacts in relation to most resource evaluation criteria used in the ranking analysis, GAI said, adding that Alternative Route 7 also affects the fewest number of parcels within the ROW.

Among other things, GAI said that there are no National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)-listed resources within two miles of the preferred route; there are no national or state wild and scenic rivers or national natural landmarks located within two miles of the preferred route; and there are no federal wilderness areas within two miles of the preferred route.

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