Modernizing Transmission

AEP’s financial commitment to modernizing the grid, replacing aging facilities, targeting poorly performing assets, and improving grid security helps to partially mitigate future costs to maintain the electric power system. Our investments also ensure the reliability and security of the grid for customers today. 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 reduces those costs. In addition, AEP is investing in projects that enhance grid security and modernize the telecommunications network along the electric system. These improvements allow us to locate, diagnose and respond more quickly when reliability issues occur.

We studied a sample of 84 line reconductoring projects and analyzed the line loss decrease that occurred from these investments. For the sample studied, we found that losses decreased by 55 percent, on average. Reducing transmission losses, means that AEP needs to produce or purchase less power to serve its load – which directly reduces the cost of serving our retail customers. Our study concluded that the net present value of savings due to lower power consumption caused by lower line losses would be an estimated $127 million over the lifetime of the investment.

In addition, reduced line losses during peak demand hours would also provide customer savings through reduced capacity needs. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has estimated the value of capacity, and, according to SPP’s assumption, customers would realize additional capacity savings of approximately $114 million (present value terms) over the lifetime of the investments in the sample study. These are significant financial and reliability benefits for our customers, as well as operational improvements for how we manage and modernize the grid.

BOLD® Advantages

BOLD stands out as an example of groundbreaking innovation designed to improve reliability, grid resilience and services for customers.

On July 19, 2017, AEP energized the Reynolds-Meadow Lake 345-kV transmission line in northwest Indiana – the second line on our system using AEP’s Breakthrough Overhead Line Design® (BOLD®) technology. It was also the first BOLD line to use a lattice structure design to support the compact line configuration. With electric demand straining the system in that region, the new line supports growth and enhanced reliability. The first BOLD line was energized near Fort Wayne, Indiana, in November 2016. Additional projects are underway across the AEP system.

What makes BOLD so attractive? The compact BOLD 345-kV design provides advantages such as lower tower heights and increased capacity in the same right-of-way. The cleaner visual line and elegance of a BOLD structure and line is a creative and conscientious design option in response to public objections to taller and more imposing traditional towers.

We are now developing a virtual reality presentation of the BOLD line to support our siting and outreach teams. This will allow us to show landowners and regulators what the line would look like before it is built. Our strategy is to market the technology to other utilities; partner with and license engineering firms who support our industry to promote and use the BOLD technology for their clients; and work with suppliers of BOLD materials and structures to drive down manufacturing and construction costs.

BOLD stands out as an example of groundbreaking innovation designed to improve reliability, grid resilience and services for customers. In 2017, AEP Transmission received several prestigious awards recognizing the importance of BOLD to the industry globally.

In June 2017, AEP received the prestigious Edison Award for the Robison Park-Sorenson rebuild project using BOLD in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) award honors “distinguished leadership, innovation and contribution to the advancement of the electric industry for the benefit of all.” It was the second year in a row AEP received this award. The Fort Wayne BOLD line became the world’s first operating BOLD transmission line, replacing a 1940s era 138-kV line. The new line is helping to ease grid congestion in that region.

In September 2017, the BOLD tower design received the “International Tower Design Award” from CIGRE/KEPCO and was selected over 26 other tower designs from around the world. The judges recognized BOLD for its practical and environmentally friendly design, blending performance with aesthetics. In November 2017, the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners (NARUC) presented BOLD with its 2017 Utility Industry Innovation in Electricity award. This was the first year NARUC presented innovation awards.

Our employees were also recognized for their own bold innovation. One of our employees was named as one of the Top Forty Innovators for 2017 by Public Utilities Fortnightly. The honor recognizes his efforts to bring BOLD from whiteboard concept to reality. We are proud of our employees who are leading the way as we transform our company – and the industry – for the future.