Note: Effective February 25, 2011, Allegheny Energy and its subsidiaries, including TrAILCo, became part of the FirstEnergy family of companies headquartered in Akron, Ohio.Q: What is TrAIL?
Q: What is TrAIL?
TrAIL stands for the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line. In June 2006, PJM Interconnection directed the construction of a proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line extending from a new substation in Southwestern Pennsylvania to existing substations at Mt. Storm, W. Va. and Meadow Brook near Middletown, Va., along with an interconnection with Dominion Virginia Power and continuing east to Dominion's Loudoun Substation.
The portion of the PJM region served by a company's transmission facilities is known as its transmission zone. Allegheny Energy subsidiary TrAILCo and Dominion have each constructed the line in their respective transmission zones. In addition to the customers served directly by Allegheny, several municipal and rural electric cooperative systems are located within Allegheny's zone.
Q: What is the timing for this project?
The TrAIL Project is largely completed and on schedule to be energized and in service by June 2011.
Q: Where is TrAIL located?
TrAIL runs through Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The route is posted on Allegheny's web site www.aptrailinfo.com. Click on TrAIL Facts on the home page and follow the link near the top of the page to view the route.
The approvals for TrAIL came from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Virginia State Corporation Commission and the West Virginia Public Service Commission. In addition, permits from some federal agencies, as well as various state and local authorities were required to the extent that the line is subject to their jurisdictions.
Q: Where is the new substation?
The 502 Junction Substation is located in Greene County, Pa., east of the community of Mt. Morris. It stands near the junction of two existing 500-kV lines that connect Kammer, Harrison and Fort Martin.
Q: What is PJM?
PJM Interconnection is a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of electricity and ensures the reliability of the transmission grid and plans transmission expansion in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Allegheny Power's service territory lies within the PJM region. Allegheny owns and operates the transmission system in its zone, but PJM has "functional" control of the grid across the region. RTOs have planning authority for maintaining the short- and long-term reliability needs of the grid that it controls.
Q: What is the purpose of the new TrAIL line?
The line will greatly strengthen the reliability of the power grid that serves the Allegheny Power zone. The need for the TrAIL facilities is driven by load growth in the Mid-Atlantic and Northern Virginia areas of PJM.
The PJM planning group's report indicated a need for a new line connecting 502 Junction - Mt. Storm - Meadow Brook - Loudoun substations. The line from 502 Junction to Loudoun will mitigate overloading on the Pruntytown-Mt. Storm, the Mt. Storm-Doubs and the Black Oak-Bedington 500kV lines, which are significant reliability issues. Not only will TrAIL significantly increase transfers across the PJM region, but it also will strengthen the region's existing 500-kV system and reinforce its underlying transmission system, which will improve reliability for customers across the region.
Without these facilities, the stability of the electric grid and reliable flow of electricity within the PJM region cannot be reasonably assured. That could have resulted in blackouts, rolling blackouts and brownouts starting as early as mid-2011, according to leading independent energy experts. Experts also agree that these facilities will reduce the likelihood of blackouts disrupting businesses and impacting our quality of life.
Q: Why could power be disrupted?
Due to interconnectivity of the grid, problems in one area can almost instantaneously affect other areas hundreds of miles away. For instance, if a transmission line or associated equipment begins to overload in one place, immediate action must be taken before the line or equipment overheats and becomes permanently damaged. Short-term remedies might include turning off generating plants far away from the initial problem, turning specific transmission lines on or off, or discontinuing electric service to certain groups of customers or customers in certain areas.
Each utility's transmission system was originally constructed to meet its needs with limited capability to transfer power to neighboring utilities. Now, the combined PJM system serves as an integrated transmission network connecting generators to local distribution systems. Due to the growth in the demand for electricity, additional transmission lines are needed to improve the grid's reliability and reduce congestion so power can be transferred from where it is generated to where it is needed.
Q: What is congestion?
The points in the transmission grid at which operations cannot take place are known by many terms: transmission constraints, "bottlenecks" or congestion points. Congestion describes the situation when the flow of electricity on the transmission system is constrained by the physical capacity of the line or associated equipment, such as transformers. These congestion points can limit the flow of power from one region to another, in much the same way that a three-lane highway reduced to two lanes will restrict the flow of traffic.
Q: Is congestion really a problem?
PJM estimated the cost of congestion in 2006 to be more than $1.6 billion. Congestion costs are ultimately paid by consumers.
Q: Will Allegheny's customers benefit from the newly built line?
Yes, Allegheny's customers will benefit from TrAIL. Allegheny has a legal responsibility to maintain reliability and deliver electricity to its customers; and infrastructure additions, such as TrAIL, are part of that obligation. The addition of TrAIL makes the transmission system more reliable and lessens the chance of interruptions from an overload condition.
We have seen tremendous growth in the Northern Virginia area along the I-81 corridor and TrAIL's connection to the Meadow Brook Substation is designed to meet the area's growing need for electricity.
Q: What are the other benefits of this project?
In addition to improving reliability, which benefits all customers, there will economic benefits for West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania, including expanding markets for local coal, more jobs and the potential for new generation projects including clean-coal technologies and renewables, such as wind and hydro.
Q: What will the new line cost?
Allegheny's portion of the transmission expansion is approximately $960 million.
Q: Who will pay for TrAIL?
All electricity consumers ultimately pay for transmission services. In regulated states, such as West Virginia, these costs are included in the total price of electricity. In states that have adopted deregulation, those costs are itemized on a customer's bill. Typically, transmission represents about 5 percent of an Allegheny customer's bill.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has directed that the costs associated with the 502 Junction – Loudoun 500-kilovolt line to be allocated to all customers in the PJM Region, including those outside the Allegheny Zone.
Q: Did the public have any say in the line route?
Public opinion was solicited during the routing studies at 10 public open houses and two informational meetings attended by 2,200 people along the route. Valuable public feedback from the open houses and hundreds of written comments were considered in the selection of the line route. In addition, the public also had the opportunity to participate in proceedings before state commissions as part of the regulatory approval process.
Throughout the project, TrAILCo remained committed to working with landowners, neighboring residents and business owners, and regulators to balance all interests in an effort to minimize environmental and land use impacts.
Q: How was land acquired for this project?
Utilities typically negotiate agreements with private property owners to acquire rights-of-way and Allegheny's experience has generally been positive in reaching acceptable agreements with property owners. TrAILCo worked to minimize the use of eminent domain.
Every effort was made to reach a fair and equitable agreement with each property owner along the line to acquire right-of-way at a fair price. Appraising transmission line easements is one of the more specialized fields of the entire appraisal process and requires substantial experience.