Largely in response to increased demand on the area's power grid from the natural gas industry, American Electric Power will spend $7.1 million to upgrade almost 6 miles of transmission lines through Ohio and Marshall counties by mid-2015.
The work, which will take place between the Brues Substation along W.Va. 2 in South Wheeling and the Sand Hill substation in Marshall County, is expected to double the load capacity of the existing line. It's part of an overall $200 million improvement project resulting from an analysis of the needs of the local power grid, once AEP's Kammer Plant south of Moundsville closes by the end of next year.
The 5.9-mile Brues-Sand Hill line serves customers in the Bethlehem, Mozart, Elm Grove, Cedar Rocks and Sand Hill areas.
Project Manager Archie Phlegar said the project will not only ensure AEP can meet the demands of various natural gas processing plants popping up in the area, but also make the system more reliable during storms and other events that typically threaten power service.
"We need to reinforce the system. ... It should really upgrade the reliability in the area," Phlegar said.
Of the 22 steel lattice towers along the line, 14 were installed in 1929, while the remaining eight date back to 1963. Each of these will be replaced by single steel-pole structures, built on concrete foundations to allow them to be stronger and less visually intrusive than the existing towers.
Surveying work for the project will be completed by GAI Consultants of Canonsburg, Pa., and is expected to last through the end of this year. If residents see surveyors in their neighborhoods, AEP spokeswoman Carmen Prati-Miller said the workers will be carrying proper identification.
After surveying is complete, temporary road construction will begin to allow for access to the tower sites. This phase is expected to take place between February and September, with the first structures to be erected in the spring. The project has an anticipated completion date of June 2015.
There will be no disruption in electric service for customers, Phlegar said, though there may be some minor inconveniences for property owners near the construction sites. The work may require intermittent disruption of traffic via lane reductions along W.Va. 88, likely for no longer than 15 or 30 minutes at a time.
He said the company still is analyzing whether it would be better to start on the Brues or Sand Hill end of the line.