AEP Prepares for Economic Development With Upgrades

WHEELING — American Electric Power is preparing for continued economic development in Marshall and Ohio counties with investments and upgrades to its transmission capabilities and a variety of “customer service” projects, according to Joelle Moray, manager of external affairs for AEP.

Appalachian Power, commonly referred to as AEP serves about 44,000 customers in the two Northern Panhandle counties and continues to see growth in this region, according to Moray.

“The Northern Panhandle is an area of our company that is growing to the point where this area is actually making money for the company,” Moray said.

She said the continued growth of the company in this region is very exciting in terms of overall economic development for the Upper Ohio Valley.

Moray said the company continues to prepare for that development by upgrading its transmission capabilities and technology in the area — particularly in Marshall County, where there is continued talk about a proposed ethane cracker plant being built directly across the Ohio River from Moundsville in the Dilles Bottom area of Belmont County. AEP Ohio serves customers on that side of the river.

She said two of three large transmission projects are currently underway in Marshall County.

“The total investment with just the two projects is $100 million,” Moray said.

She said once those projects are complete and up and running, the work will result in the company paying back into the tax base of Marshall County.

“So it is a substantial benefit for the county and the city of Moundsville,” she added.

Moray said the first project AEP is working on is the “Moundsville area transmission project,” which involves increasing the capacity for what those lines can handle.

“It’s under construction now and should be completed in August,” Moray added.

She said the second construction project, which is also currently underway, is the upgrade of the “George Washington” line that spans from Moundsville to Dilles Bottom and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2020.

“So I think the implication there is pretty clear as to why we would be upgrading our infrastructure there,” she added.

She said both projects aim to upgrade transmission lines from 69 kilovolts to 138 kilovolt capacity. A kilovolt is equal to 1,000 volts.

“So this is for future load growth and also for economic development,” she added.

In addition to the large transmission projects in Marshall County, Moray said AEP is working on a large variety of customer service projects throughout Ohio County.

“So there’s a ton of megawatt growth there,” she commented. “We work very closely with our economic development partners in the area and our county commissions and municipalities.”

She said all of these projects are big indicators that the area is growing.

“It’s an exciting time in the Northern Panhandle for sure,” she added.

Moray said a lot is happening on the Ohio side of the river as well, where AEP Ohio services Belmont and Jefferson counties. Overall, Appalachian Power serves about 1 million customers in three states.

Moray said when area residents or businesses experience outages in the area, the majority of the time the problem is caused when distribution lines are affected by something out of the company’s control, such as a storm, a hill slip or a fallen tree.

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