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Stringing Transmission Lines, Untangling Red Tape

Centralized federal oversight sounds good, but what about squabbles between separate federal agencies?
Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 2001

the flows were quite abnormal to what we had seen historically. This year they're more typical."

Tim Gallagher, manager of technical services at NERC (the North American Electric Reliability Council), explains further: "[TLRs] are spurred on by transmission congestion, but the transmission congestion in a lot of cases is just driven by the weather. [For example] if it's cool on one side of that transmission interface and it's hot on the other side, and it makes it economically attractive to try to move the resources across that transmission corridor, then there's a practical limit to how much you're going to transfer if you're going to get into transmission congestion. [But] it doesn't always mean that it's always going to be like that. The weather can change significantly."

Take, for example, the flowgate between Ontario and Michigan, known as Queen Flow West, or QFW, Gallagher points out.

"Historically, that has been a heavily congested transmission interface and there have been times when Ontario has not been able to transfer as much power as it would like to the west, across into Michigan, and there have been a lot of TLRs called there in the past. Last summer, because it was so cool in the upper Midwest, I don't think they had any TLRs in that flowgate the entire summer. So a lot of it's driven by weather."

Also, the TLR metric is relatively new. "The whole industry has been learning as we've been going on, and it basically has been modified about every six months as we learn how to do this on a regional and national basis," adds Moore.

Three Lines, Three Stories

Virginia/West Virginia. Previously dubbed the "Wyoming-Cloverdale" line, AEP's long-planned grid project was renamed recently as "the 765-kV line"-the company adopted the more generic name after dropping efforts to route the line through Cloverdale (outside Roanoke). As approved by Virginia regulators on May 31 (), the line would begin in Wyoming County, W.Va. and terminate near the Jackson's Ferry substation, south of Pulaski, Va. "And there have been numerous routes on the table [between the first and last proposal]," says Todd Burns, corporate communications manager at AEP.

Yet even after four years of deliberation, the Virginia commission sounded almost ambivalent about its decision.

"Unfortunately, any of the alternative [routes] we have considered would have undesirable impacts that may, in some individual instances, be significant," said the commission in its order. "Nevertheless, the record demonstrates clearly the potential negative consequences of failing to take appropriate action." West Virginia gave the green light for the 33 miles of line in that state in 1998. The Virginia segment is roughly 57 miles long. The expected service date for the 765-kV line would be December 2004.

Wisconsin. In an effort to ease the strain on the King/Eau Claire line, which runs between the MAIN and MAPP regions, Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Minnesota Power Inc. have proposed to build a 250-mile, 345-kV line between Wausau, Wis. and Duluth, Minn. With approval already in hand from the Minnesota PUC for the short stretch of line