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Preferred route of high voltage power line pinpointed

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image This illustration details the route preferred by TECO for a proposed 230 KV transmission line in the Balm area.

A proposed high voltage electrical power transmission line will mostly skirt this rural community if regulators accept the Tampa Electric Company plan to increase capacity in the years ahead.

By MELODY JAMESON

BALM – A proposed high voltage electrical power transmission line will mostly skirt this rural community if regulators accept the Tampa Electric Company plan to increase capacity in the years ahead.

The utility’s preferred route for a 230 kilovolt transmission line to meet future power demands would run eastward a short distance north of and parallel with C.R. 672 to a point near State Road 39, cross the county roadway and angle through unoccupied acreage owned by Mosaic just west of the state road and then proceed east along the north edge of S.R. 674 into Polk County.

Known as the Polk Power to Fishhawk Substation Transmission Line, the 40-mile project also would connect a prospective new substation near Aspen Avenue and Boyette Road in Balm with the existing Fishhawk Substation, plus relocate existing line from Agricola Road south to an expanded Polk power station in western Polk County.

The project cost is estimated to be in the $700 million neighborhood, according to Cherie Jacobs, Tampa Electric spokesperson.

One of five potential routes presented to residents during community meetings in both the Balm-Wimauma and the Fishhawk-Lithia areas earlier in the year, this preferred arrangement was included with the company’s Petition of Need filed with Florida’s Public Service Commission on September 12, Jacobs said. And on October 3, the utility submitted a Site Certification Application to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection based on the same routing, she added.

The preferred transmission line placement was selected on the basis of several criteria, including customer input, both current and anticipated land uses, environmental considerations, engineering requirements as well as costs, according to a letter from Tampa Electric to about 2,000 property owners in the pertinent areas. That letter was mailed on Friday, October 12, and should be in property owners’ hands this week, Jacobs noted.

The driving forces for the project are expected increases in power demand due to projected population growth and the company’s contracts for purchased power which are to expire in 2016.

The PSC hearing on Tampa Electric’s Petition of Need is scheduled for December 12, Jacobs noted, with a decision from the commission expected in early 2013.
The DEP process is longer, she added, with the regulatory agency reviewing the utility’s site application within the parameters of Florida’s Power Plant Siting Act and then a Siting Board consisting of the governor and cabinet approving or rejecting the agency’s recommendations. A Siting Board hearing is anticipated later in 2013 with a decision made by the end of that year.

Specific placement of the structures that constitute the project can be determined only after site application approval, the spokeswoman said. Barring regulatory changes, the project’s design phase could begin in 2014, she added. And, if construction can begin late in 2014, the new transmission lines could be in service in 2016. The next year – 2017 – is the utility’s target for completion of the Polk Power Plant expansion.

Whether the new line is overhead or underground will be determined in the design and engineering stage, Jacobs noted. The company plans to solicit additional customer input at that time, she added.

As for covering the project costs, Jacobs said the estimated expense would not be assessed Tampa Electric customers through prepayment on monthly utility bills. Shared costs, she said, would not be addressed until the project is completed.

The company remains committed to communicating with customers as project milestones are achieved, Jacobs added, and additional information about the proposed transmission lines is available by calling 813-630-6295. Information about the Polk Power Plant expansion can be obtained by calling 813-228-1021.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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