AEP continues to make significant investments to modernize the transmission grid, replace aging facilities, target poorly performing assets such as outdated substations and utility poles, and improve grid security. Investing in these updates helps reduce our future costs to maintain the electric power system and ensures the continued reliability of the power grid for our customers. A large portion of AEP’s investment is focused on replacing or upgrading facilities that have been identified as underperforming or obsolete. These aging facilities require more frequent and costly maintenance. Replacing them not only reduces the cost of maintenance but it also improves efficiency and reliability performance. In addition, AEP is investing in projects that enhance grid security and modernize the telecommunications network that supports the electric system. These improvements help us locate, diagnose and respond more quickly when reliability issues occur.
Our transmission modernization investments are providing significant financial benefits for our customers, as well as operational improvements for how we manage the grid. We studied a sample of 84 transmission modernization projects and found that line losses decreased by an average of 55 percent after the projects. Reducing these transmission losses means that AEP needs to produce or purchase less power, which directly reduces the cost of serving our retail customers. The total estimated savings are forecasted to be $108 million over the lifetime of these investments. In addition to these energy savings are potential avoided capacity cost savings. We would expect to see similar savings from other grid investment projects. Economic and Business Development
In addition to modernizing the hardware, we are modernizing the fiber-optic telecommunications system that is the backbone of the transmission grid. In 2017, we began an initiative to address several key issues, including:
- bandwidth demands;
- reliability and resiliency of our network;
- data connectivity to substations; and
- asset renewal.
The $480 million Telecom Transmission Modernization Program will continue through 2021. Our initial focus has been to upgrade major backbone routes and expand telecom networks to our substations. Through 2018, we have installed 1,260 miles of fiber optic cable, with another 3,300 miles currently in-process through 2020.
Demonstrated Performance Benefits of Investments in Transmission
Tangible Reliability Improvements
- A sample of line rebuild projects shows a projected 47% reduction in total transmission-related power outages
- Recently completed projects have shown to be 97% effective in cutting the duration of customer outages
- New transmission lines are 55% more energy efficient than those being replaced
Resilient New Infrastructure
- Modern engineering standards ensure public safety and protect against severe weather, terrorism and other threats
- New fiber-optic communications networks expand system automation capabilities and enhance cybersecurity
When it comes to electric infrastructure, size and aesthetics matter to the public. That’s where AEP’s new Breakthrough Overhead Line Design® (BOLD®) technology comes in. BOLD features lower, more aesthetically pleasing tower profiles and provides increased capacity within the same right-of-way. This makes it an attractive design option in dense areas and a conscientious response to public objections to taller and more conspicuous traditional towers. In addition, the single-pole design reduces or eliminates avian nesting, potentially reducing outages caused by birds. The deployment of BOLD continues to grow throughout our service territories.
We completed Phase 1 of a rebuild of the Roanoke-Marion transmission line to replace aging infrastructure with more than 200 new towers southwest of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This project was the first to deploy a double-circuit 138 kV BOLD line design. Though completion is scheduled for December 2019, parts of the line rebuild have already been energized.
In addition to BOLD projects in Indiana, we broke ground on a BOLD line near New Albany, Ohio in November 2018. We selected BOLD for this location due to the new power requirements in the area and limited rights-of-way. The small footprint of BOLD and its shorter towers will allow more power to pass through an existing right-of-way that traverses soccer fields and communal parks and will be nearly the same height as the existing lower-capacity lines. Additional BOLD projects are in the planning stages.
BOLD is an example of groundbreaking innovation designed to improve reliability, grid resilience and services for customers. It also provides important environmental benefits, including fewer line losses and avian interactions, as well as lowering the electromagnetic field (EMF) levels. We are now marketing BOLD technology to other utilities around the world. In 2018, we licensed four engineering firms to promote and use BOLD technology for their clients. We are proud of our employees who helped make this innovative design a reality and who continue to lead the way as we prepare our company – and the industry – for the future.