Community Issues - Powerlines

Powerlines

As everyone notices, the countryside is crisscrossed by numerous large power transmission lines. To some, they are a terrible intrusion on the scenic view, to others, they are an acceptable neccesity. There are now plans being made, and misguided government policies, that might result in a significant addition to the lines in the Kingsville area. Two factors are at play:

  • Because of the supposedly huge success of breaking up the telephone system ("Ma Bell") in 1984 which led to competition for the provision of both long distance and local telephone service, our government has embarked on a campaign to do the same for electricity. This has led to continual attempts to get people to sign up for alternate providers, other than BGE. This is non-sense, since BGE still owns the wires coming into your house, so must actually provide the electricity, regardless of whether you think that your power is coming from some wind turbine or solar farm some distance away. When no wind or sun is available, BGE must make up the difference.
  • The governing agencies responsible for ensuring the reliability of our power transmission systems have identified a congestion problem on the big powerline from Graceton down to Bagley and then to the Raphael Rd station. As a result, they have requested proposals for projects to mitigate this congestion. There have been 46 separate proposals by 9 companies including BGE. All of the non-BGE proposals result in some new power lines, generally from areas in Pennsylvania such as the Peach Bottom nuclear powere plant down to the Raphael Rd station and beyound (e.g., to White Marsh). One proposal even goes directly from Beach Bottom to White Marsh, but would likely pass near to Kingsville.
(Note, I use the mispelling "Raphael" here because that is the spelling that BGE continues to use.)

Several other things that affect this ongoing process:

  • In the "good-old-days", such projects would automatically (and sensibly) be done by the incumbant power company, BGE in this case. In the name of "competition", the governing agencies have decreed that other companies must be allowed to compete for this work.
  • While BGE would naturally attempt to use existing rights-of-way by either enhancing existing lines or, at the worst, adding a parallel line, a competitor would most likely pick a completely new route across the landscape.
  • In fact, BGE just completed a major project to upgrade the capacity of their line from Conastone (near Norrisville) down to Raphael Rd, so it unclear why additional improvement are still needed.
  • A bill was passed in 2017 by the Maryland legislature that gave any electric company the right of eminent domain to take land for such a project. That leaves very little that affected property owners can do to stop it. Except that it first requires that a "certificate of public convenience and necessity" must be issued by the Public Utilities Commission. It could be argued that some new line is not "neccesary" if there is a reasonable alternative in an existing right-of-way.

Some information is available online about these 46 proposals, but the documents online have many details redacted. Careful analysis of the little information that is provided, as well as study of the existing routes of powerlines and the location of substations, yields a pretty good picture of what is being proposed. Information about existing facilities can be found on the Baltimore County MyNeighborhood website by choosing the "OpenStrretMap" base map.

Click here for a summary of all 46 proposals.

Click here for a map depicting the potential new lines. Note that this does not attempt to show the planned route, which has not been revealed, but, rather, shows the straight line between the endpoints (sometimes guessed if new ones). Red lines are existing powerlines, purple are proposed.

PJM is supposed to select the "winning" proposal based on their own selection criteria.

One hopeful competitor provided an interesting argument as to why a solution should not use an existing power line route with some updates. For proposals 1-15a and 1-15b, PPL and ATX East argued that "The affected lines [Raphael going north] are presently being upgraded [by BGE], and any new project that involves a further additional rebuild or re-conductor of these line will result in the current upgrade investment becoming a stranded asset." In plain English, I think this means that BGE would not be able to use the cost of their just-completed upgrade in justfying future rate hikes. (However, 1-15b proposes to upgrade the Otter Point to Raphael line.)

Go here for more information on the fight in Harford County against a new power line planned by Transource.

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Updated 12 Nov 2017