Ahem... AEP, you're getting an "F" on this assignment! Not only am I not convinced that coal-by-wire is a great idea, I am sorely tempted to smack you upside the head with a ruler and make you sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap for the rest of the school year.
I'm not going to go through this thing line by line because I would be here all night. I will pull out some of my favorites though, and demonstrate how AEP failed to
anticipate the readers’ objections and address them in their paper. I strongly urge you to read the essay for yourself. You'll enjoy it in much the same way those Fractured Fairy Tales were always the best part of Saturday morning cartoons when you were a kid... because they were bizarre and funny!
The issue here is transmission grid expansion versus local siting of new generation to meet growing electricity demand. AEP contends that grid expansion is the better option.
But, first, let's get this out of the way:
"On Jan. 31, 2006, American Electric Power became the first electric utility to employ the 2005 Energy Policy Act in attempting to have a major transmission expansion project deemed a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. AEP proposed a 550-mile 765-kV transmission line that would originate in AEP’s West Virginia service territory and travel toward the Atlantic Coast, offering opportunities for new generation and transmission expansion along the way. The project would increase transmission capacity by 5,000 MW in one of the most heavily congested regions of the United States. Some
opponents of the line – largely those who do not want to look at it in their own communities – have suggested that a more efficient solution would be to build new coal
generation plants in New Jersey and take the coal to those plants via existing rail infrastructure."
American Electric Power also became the first electric utility to have their project employing the 2005 Energy Policy Act FAIL. Woo Hoo for first place, AEP!!! And thank you for spending a whole bunch of time manufacturing this "issue" and inappropriately assigning it to fictional "NIMBYs" as part of your PR spin campaign. And still, you failed at persuading anyone.
"While the transmission line – silently traversing the Pennsylvania landscape – is designed to blend into the background as much as possible and will be overhead and out of the way, it also will facilitate construction of additional generation sources, including renewables, all along its route."
"Silently traversing the landscape"? *SNAP* *CRACKLE* *POP* Obviously you don't have one of these monsters in your backyard, do you AEP? "[B]lend[ing] into the background"? What background would that be? The background set for the movie "Giant Erector Sets from Mars Invade Suburbia"? "[O]verhead and out of the way"? The same way a guillotine is "overhead and out of the way," I suppose? And what happens if those renewables don't happen to spring up in close proximity to the route you have chosen for your coal-by-wire transmission line? Is your transmission line portable so it can be moved closer to mythical future renewables?
"And rail shipment of coal from West Virginia to New Jersey to produce an equivalent amount of new
generation there would increase rail traffic by 115,000 coal cars annually along one of two routes, increasing traffic congestion, noise, pollution and safety hazards throughout the state."
Oh no! Increased traffic congestion, noise, pollution and safety hazards! And lions, and tigers and bears, oh my! Let's see, your eventual concept consisted of the PATH project with a length of 275 miles. It affected between 1500 - 2000 property owners who would be subject to eminent domain, noise and congestion from construction, continual noise and safety hazards from operation of your line and the pollution from the additional coal burned at your John Amos plant to create the electricity to be transported by the line. Now, multiply that by two because your original concept was 550 miles long, nearly twice the length of PATH.
"Due to new concerns about the environmental impacts of coal, some would assert that it’s best not to transmit coal at all. And new clean-coal technologies are leading us to a day when coal plants will be emission-free, or
nearly so. And the coal of tomorrow is not the coal of yesterday."
There's no such thing as "clean coal!" There's that word "nearly" again. Power companies do so love that weasel word! But what I really want to know is how the properties of coal, buried for eons, is going to change into "the coal of tomorrow" and come out of the ground in a pristine, toxin-free state in the future.
"In looking at the map above, I-765 would connect the Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey red to the West Virginia blue, levelizing costs in the region..."
See, that's just the problem... the "levelizing" of costs make New Jersey's electric costs cheaper, but on the other side of the scale they make West Virginia's electric costs more expensive.
"Based on PJM’s rate structure in which those consumers who benefit most from a project pay proportionally more than those who benefit less, much of the cost of the I-765 project likely would be borne by consumers in the eastern PJM area – including eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey."
But that's not what happened, is it? PJM applied postage-stamp rates that socialized the cost among ALL customers of PJM. West Virginians got to pay for the privilege of having their electric rates "levelized."
"With a 2014 service date, the I-765 project will be transmitting electricity generated via much cleaner methods than those used today."
I don't know when this persuasive essay was written, but none of that cleaner electricity to be transported by the project ever materialized.
"...this transmission line is urgently needed to ensure the reliability of the nation’s power grid. AEP has stepped to the plate with its proposal..."
He swings, he misses. He swings again, and misses. He swings a third time... and YOU'RE OUT!
"Reliability concerns in one area can impact those in another, as evidenced in the blackout of Aug. 14, 2003, which took out more than 50 million consumers, in some places for many days. A lengthy investigation conducted by the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force determined that inadequate tree-trimming under transmission lines in northern Ohio was the cause of the outage, which might have rolled even farther across the
continent had it not been stopped by PJM and by AEP’s 765-kV transmission grid. "
AEP's version of the 2003 blackout. Oh, thank you, mighty AEP! You da man for stopping the blackout! Can I feel your mighty 765-kV transmission grid? Ooooh! It's making me giddy!
"The Energy Policy Act of 2005 took a giant step toward alleviating congestion problems. Transmission owners now can receive tax incentives for new transmission construction, and permitting processes have been streamlined. AEP’s project was the first proposed
under the new rules and will serve as a milestone for others."
Yup, there it is in the Power Company Playbook, heading up the chapter entitled, "What not to do."
See AEP's wind resources map on page 8.
"In the eastern U.S., wind energy could be productive along the Great Lakes and Atlantic shorelines, and atop the Smoky, Blue Ridge, Allegheny, Green and White Mountains. These sites could offset the need for additional coal generation, but only if transmission
exists to move the electricity from the mountaintops to the consumers."
What happened to the wind energy along the Great Lakes and Atlantic shorelines? All of a sudden AEP is moving energy from the mountain, like Moses showing up with the Ten Commandments.
"The presence of the line, which will spur upgrades of existing facilities owned by other companies, will create many opportunities for new generation – whether renewable such as wind, IGCC, or more traditional technologies – along the full length of the route."
Oh, fabulous! Not only do we get a transmission line in our backyard, we will now also be a magnet for new power plants to spring up in our backyard! Gee, AEP, you're such an outrageous flirt! ;-)
"They will be made of specially designed steel that is etched on the surface to encourage oxidation. In this process, tower steel starts out a dark, dull gray, eliminating sunlight reflection. The etching then causes
the towers to quickly develop a coat of rust, at which point they fade into the background for onlookers, especially in wooded areas."
Magical, disappearing transmission towers! What will the geniuses at AEP think of next? I hope they tie little flags on them so I don't accidentally run into these invisible towers on the lawn tractor while mowing. That would probably hurt.
"A total of 1,150 100-car trains would be needed to transport coal from West Virginia to New Jersey. That’s 96 a month or just over three additional trains a day to equal the power transmitted overhead."
Wow! Not three extra trains a day?!? Say it's not so! A $2.1 billion dollar transmission line that will take property from 2,000 families is so much less intrusive than 3 trains a day!
"The DOT reports, "coupled with expected increases in
auto and truck traffic, highway delay is likely to increase significantly at highway-rail grade crossings. The
delay to motorists and pedestrians could reach unacceptable levels in many communities, blocking
emergency vehicles, disrupting local commerce, inconveniencing residents and creating societal divisions."
Oh! The horrors, the horrors! Those three extra trains a day are going to be much too inconvenient, causing urban disaster! It's preferable for thousands of people to be inconvenienced by your transmission line instead, of course! We understand... we'll just stay on the proper side of the societal divide... with our EMF-toasted, three-eyed babies.
"Unlike the PJM transmission line projects in which the project benefactors pay the additional costs incurred, when added rail traffic increases wear and tear on crossings, taxpayers all share the bill."
Taxpayers or PJM ratepayers? They're one and the same, you moron! Which costs more? A transmission line or three additional trains a day? It's not who pays, but how much.
Oh look, the AEP wordsmith has anticipated my argument and countered it with...
"While the addition of three trains a day through any given area would likely make an insignificant blip on numbers of this magnitude, the added stress on drivers in those areas as well as the lost productivity for employees who can’t get to work also must be considered."
...added stress for drivers? Really? I hope you never tempt fate by using a crosswalk in my route, buddy... I'll show you what driver stress is all about!
Gosh, AEP, we're so going to miss you now that PATH is dead! Maybe you can start a railroad company subsidiary now, since your adventures in transmission line siting haven't quite worked out. You could start by running three additional coal trains to New Jersey every day!