CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Appalachian Power on Monday announced plans to spend more than $337 million upgrading its electrical grid in West Virginia, with much of the work slated to take place throughout the Kanawha Valley.
The power company plans to rebuild about 52 miles of its existing transmission line network and upgrade several substations over the next three years as part of the project.
The move is due in part to parent company American Electric Power's plans to shutter three coal-fired plants in the state.
The company announced in 2010 that it would permanently retire the Kanawha River Plant at Glasgow, the Philip Sporn Plant at New Haven and the Kammer Plant in Moundsville. The plants will go offline in phases, beginning in 2014.
The closure of the plants will affect the flow of power across the company's transmission grid. Appalachian officials say the $337 million in upgrades are designed to make up for that and to increase reliability across the system.
"The power grid is dynamic, and it will be affected by retirement of existing power plants," APCo president and chief operating officer Charles Patton said in a statement.
"These upgrades not only meet the immediate need to strengthen the grid, but position the region well for growth in the future," Patton said.
While the $337 million project is a statewide plan, the bulk of the work will take place in the Kanawha Valley.
The company will rebuild all its transmission lines and towers running between substations in Nitro and Cabin Creek, as well as loops that run off that network in Cross Lanes and Kanawha City.
Appalachian spokesman Phil Moye said some portions of this system were built as early as the 1920s. The last major work on the system was done nearly 40 years ago.
He said the company hopes for a similar life span with the new system.
"We're building it to continue to be reliable for many years to come," Moye said. "We're constructing those lines and substations in such a way that they'll serve the valley well through their life."
He said most of the new network would make use of existing right-of-way paths, or areas just adjacent to them.
"The places where we see lines and towers now are generally the places where lines and towers will be when the project wraps up," Moye said.
There will be some changes.
The company will build 120-foot transmission towers, in contrast to the current 100-foot towers. Moye said that was because the new lines will be a heavier gauge wire.