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Largest Reliability Project in Blue Ridge History Underway
To ensure adequate, reliable power for its members, Blue Ridge Energy has begun the largest system improvement project in the cooperative’s history.
The cooperative currently operates over 26 miles of 230 kV transmission lines from Ashe County to Wilkes County where we receive transmission grid service from Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC. The 17 miles of transmission lines that bring power from Ashe County to Watauga County are over 50 years old and need to be upgraded for both reliability and future load growth in Watauga County, which is the cooperative’s largest member district.
Cooperative system upgrades are monitored closely as an ongoing process over the years to balance cost and construction timing with ensuring the most reliable power for members. This project will be conducted in two phases as part of this process.
The project, which is being conducted predominately within existing rights-of-ways, will upgrade the single-circuit transmission line to a higher voltage double circuit transmission line to provide capacity to meet electricity demand now and for the next 50 years. To safely carry the higher voltage transmission power lines, existing wooden poles will be replaced with larger steel poles.
Cooperative officials have contacted all members with property along the project’s first phase, which begins in Ashe County at Hwy 163 near the Obids community along Idlewild Road to Hwy 221. The cooperative will meet later this year with members who have property along the second phase of the project, which stretches from Hwy 221 to Hwy 421 near the Rutherwood community in Watauga County. Depending on weather, first phase completion should be late 2019. The second phase is targeted to begin in early 2020 and conclude by the end of that year.
Engineering studies for the project began over 10 years ago and is now being executed as the cooperative monitored and balanced reliability for member energy needs, growth projections, system reliability and cost to determine the best time for the upgrade.
“Planning for electric system infrastructure is a complex process with a clear goal of ensuring the most reliable, adequate supply of electricity to meet the needs of our members while keeping costs as low as possible,” said John Coffey, chief operating officer of Blue Ridge Energy.
The cooperative selected Davis H. Elliot Company, Inc., based in Lexington, KY, for the construction work in Phase 1 of the project. “They are accustomed to working in mountainous terrains and have worked on our transmission system several times on previous projects,” said Coffey.
Blue Ridge Electric is a cooperative utility serving some 75,000 members in Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, and Caldwell counties as well as parts of Avery, Wilkes and Alexander counties. Learn more at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com.