Transmission Breakthroughs

BOLDTM goes live

On November 14, 2016, AEP energized the full length of the 345-kV Robison Park to Sorenson Line near Fort Wayne, Ind., making it the first BOLDTM line to enter service. BOLD, or Breakthrough Overhead Line Design, is an innovative new line design that AEP Transmission engineers developed. Placing this line in service took BOLD from an innovative concept to a real-world solution benefiting our customers.

The compact BOLD 345-kV design provides advantages such as lower tower heights and increased capacity in the same right-of-way.

The BOLD line went from concept to in-service within three years. The compact BOLD 345-kV design provides advantages such as lower tower heights and increased capacity in the same right-of-way. The 22-mile Robison Park-to-Sorenson project uses the new compact BOLD design coupled with a new tubular steel structure resulting in a shorter, more appealing structure profile. It replaces a 1940s-vintage 138-kV line.

AEP formed BOLD Transmission, LLC, to further refine and market the innovative technology in the U.S. and beyond. BOLD 230-kV development and testing are in progress. Other structure types and voltage classes that use BOLD’s technology are under development, in response to our own needs and market interest.

AEP Transmission began construction this fall on a new BOLD line near Lafayette, Ind Other BOLD lines are being planned in Texas and Ohio. Further, we have received interest from other utilities and policymakers in the United States and beyond to potentially use the BOLD technology on their systems.

New Substation Protection

In 2016, AEP Transmission achieved an important milestone in standardizing the construction and maintenance of substations. The Flag City substation in Findlay, Ohio became one of the first electric substation in the country with a fully implemented fiber-based protection and control (P&C) system.

The substation is in northwest Ohio utilizing a fiber-based system that replaces most copper wiring, which is expected to result in faster, more standardized station construction and maintenance techniques in the future. Protection and Control Systems provide important monitoring and control functions that protect power lines and substation equipment. The use of fiber optic protection improves construction efficiency by reducing the labor needed for on-site wiring in a traditional copper wire environment.

Advantages of fiber include:

  • Fiber is less vulnerable to interferences (such as those caused by lightning or high-voltage switching impulses) in the harsh substation electromagnetic environment.
  • The AEP-developed drop-in control module (DICM), a standardized factory-built substation control house, can readily accept fiber-optic wiring and devices.
  • Using these technologies, AEP connects customers to the grid faster, meeting their business needs.
  • It is a more expedient and cost-effective construction method to meet customers’ needs.

Standardization of work is an important principle of continuous improvement at AEP and this project reflects our commitment to improving how we do our work to better serve our customers.

Patent for Drop-in Control Module

Flag City Facility is a Fiber First

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The need to find a faster, more standardized way to build greenfield substations and upgrade or replace protection and control equipment in existing substations led to a new technology development benefiting the entire industry. The drop-in control module (DICM) is critical to supporting construction across AEP’s service territory. Developed by AEP Transmission engineers and first tested in 2011, the DICM is a modular, pre-wired control building for power substations. Built at the factory to AEP specifications, the DICM reduces the time and cost of installing a control room compared with conventional construction and results in less outage time needed to replace existing control rooms – which is good for customers. In December 2016, the DICM earned a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Electromagnetic Pulse Disturbance Mitigation

High-impact, low-frequency (HILF) events are a growing concern in the power industry. These include natural events such as severe weather, pandemics or solar flares. HILF events also include man-made actions, such as cyber, physical or coordinated attacks, including electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and intentional EM interference (IEMI) attacks. Policymakers are looking to the energy industry to develop an effective, affordable response based on scientific evidence and testing.

EMP refers to a very intense, short burst of electromagnetic energy that can impact electronic or electrical equipment. High-energy EMPs result from the detonation of a nuclear or other high-energy explosive device. AHEMP (high-altitude electromagnetic pulse) is a nuclear warhead detonated high above the Earth’s surface to produce more widespread EMP effects. HEMP detonation can occur with little or no warning, making mitigation based on operational strategies ineffective. Therefore, response to the HEMP threat generally comes in the form of hardening assets to reduce initial damage and then recovery to reduce the duration of the interruption.

The redundant nature of the U.S. power grid provides significant protection from a wide range of natural and man-made threats. In addition, AEP is implementing a number of mitigation techniques for further protection, including:

  • Development of the drop-in-control-module (DICM), an EMP-resistant control house in the substation that shields the electronic equipment. The DICM is built using a metal exterior with special consideration to ensure bonding of metal members, improved grounding and cable entrances.
  • Installation of power supply and communication cables with integrated shields. For example, individually shielded twisted pair cables with an overall grounded shield.
  • Installation of filters applied at cable entry points to reduce high frequency, conducted energy, which can impact electronics.
  • Incorporation of EMP resiliency into new components, such as relays and communication systems through equipment manufacturers.

AEP is also piloting fiber-based protective relay systems that will provide enhanced shielding effectiveness by minimizing traditional copper conductors/cable penetrating the building. The benefits of the fiber system will also provide an opportunity to install enhanced EMP solutions at the fiber cable entrances, which have also been identified as an area of improvement. AEP continues to be a leader in this area through actively participating in and leading industry and regulatory hosted discussions, including the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the North American Transmission Forum EMP working groups and with federal agencies.

In April 2016, EPRI initiated a three-year research project to address the potential threat of HEMP to the bulk power system.