Transmission siting is the process of determining specifically where new transmission projects will be located. It incorporates the planning process into other processes such as obtaining right-of-way and complying with local zoning ordinances.
Siting is a complex process for a line contained entirely within a single state jurisdiction. It becomes overpowering when a line crosses through two or more states, or across federal lands, protected ecosystems or in scenic or historic areas.
Needed transmission additions (>200kV) by primary driver
Source: NERC, Long-term Reliability Assessment 2009
What’s at stake?
According to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), constructing needed transmission lines in the next five years will require siting and construction to more than double over any other five-year period since 1990. In its 2009 Long-term Reliability Assessment
, NERC projected a need for 11,000 miles of new transmission line over 200 kV to ensure reliability over the next five years.
U.S. capacity reserve margins: All regions inadequate by 2018
Source: NERC, 2009 Long-term Reliability Assessment
AEP is the proud parent of what could be termed the poster child of transmission siting gone awry. The Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry line, roughly 90 miles of 765-kV in Virginia and West Virginia, was 16 years from inception to energizing. That included two years of actual construction and 14 years of siting, with $50 million spent before the first spade of dirt was turned.
This situation was not due to negligence on anyone’s part. Each agency and jurisdiction was doing its own job. The requirements and needs of the various jurisdictions simply didn’t mesh.
This is why AEP believes we need FERC to assume a lead agency status in siting processes, shepherding projects as need be and ensuring that those projects stay on track.
Failure to smooth the siting process increases the transmission owner’s financial risk, raising cost of capital and delaying or even killing much-needed projects.