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High-voltage power line plans moving forward

August 24, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

TRI-STATE - Plans are moving forward to build a 290-mile high-voltage power line from southern West Virginia to Kemptown, Md., that would reduce the risk of blackouts as energy demand increases.

Allegheny Energy Inc. said Thursday it had finalized a joint-venture agreement to build the line with Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power.

American Electric owns the West Virginia utility Appalachian Power.

This fall, the companies will begin a year-long study to determine the best route for the line, Allegheny Energy spokesman David Neurohr said.

The Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) would include 244 miles of 765-kilovolt transmission from American Electric's Amos substation near St. Albans, W.Va., to Allegheny Energy's Bedington substation, northeast of Martinsburg, W.Va.

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From there, another 46 miles of twin-circuit 500-kilovolt lines would run to a new substation to be built and owned by Allegheny Energy in Kemptown, southeast of Frederick, Md.

The study to determine a route will survey an area up to 25 miles wide and take engineering, historical, environmental and cultural factors into consideration, Neurohr said.

A direct route between Bedington and Kemptown would pass through Sharpsburg, Middletown, Md., and Frederick, but Neurohr said it was too early to say whether the line would run near those municipalities.

"The first thing everyone wants to do is to get out a map and start drawing lines, but you can't do that," he said. "This is a long process. All we have is this point and that point."

After the study is completed, the companies will seek approval for the line from the utility regulatory commissions in West Virginia and Maryland.

The project was approved in June by PJM Interconnection, an organization that coordinates the movement of large amounts of energy. PJM said the line needs to be completed by June 2012 to keep up with increasing energy demands.

Allegheny Energy and American Electric expect the project to cost about $1.8 billion, a bill that will be passed along to their customers. Because the line primarily will serve Allegheny Energy customers, the company will be responsible for paying about $1.2 billion of that cost.

The companies have not yet worked out the details of how to finance the project, Neurohr said.

"The papers are just signed," he said. "These are details and decisions that will be made moving forward."

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