Columbia City Council Discusses Power Lines
COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council met Thursday afternoon to discuss three options for the city's Electric Transmission Line Project.
Columbia Water & Light identified weakness in the high-voltage transmission lines around Columbia. Southern Columbia needs more electricity, but the substations already in the area are approaching their maximum capacity electrically and physically. Transmission systems need to be built so an outage will not cause overloading of other transmission lines. A new substation and transmission lines would help ensure and improve stability for the power grid.
The city council adopted an ordinance in March 2010 to acquire property on Peach Court in Columbia for the new substation. The property was acquired in July 2010 for the new Mill Creek substation. There are three proposed options for the new transmission lines to connect the Mill Creek substation to other existing substations.
Option A uses 161 kilovolt lines and provides the longest-term solution for electric load growth, as it would need to be improved about 20+ years after completion. According to a document prepared by Columbia Water & Light, it is the easiest option to maintain. It provides fewer possibilities for power outages compared to the other two options. Option A would cost more than $13 million for overhead electric lines and more than $91 million for underground lines.
Option B is the shortest in length and uses some already existing transmission line paths. This option uses 161 and 69 kilovolt lines, so the lower voltage lines will support electric growth for a shorter period of time. It would be about 10-20 years before more improvements would be needed, after the project was completed. The lower voltage lines also mean that they can be overloaded more easily. This option is more difficult to access and maintain because of its cross-country paths. Option B would cost more than $10 million for overhead electric lines and more than $75 million for underground lines.
Option B-2 also uses 161 and 69 kilovolt lines. This option is longer length and has more angles than Option B. It would need to be improved 10 to 20 years after completion. Option B-2 is more expensive to build and maintain than Option B. The route for this option runs parallel to part of the MKT trail and would cross the trail three times. Option B-2 would cost more than $12 million for overhead electric lines and more than $97 million for underground lines.
Electric lines can be installed overhead or below ground for each option. Installing the lines overhead could increase electric rates for Columbia by 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent. Installing the lines underground could increase rates by 8.9 percent to 11.5 percent.
A citywide survey shows 76 percent of respondents prefer Option A, 17 percent prefer Option B, and 7 percent prefer Option B-2.
City Manager Mike Matthes said the goal of the meeting was educating residents about the three options.
"The goal of this work session is to bring everyone, all of us, up to date on the work of the Water & Light staff as it relates to transmission lines. Within a matter of months we hope to have everyone comfortable enough that they can pick one of these routes. Then we'll begin the design work and come back with precisely where it will go," Matthes said.
Matthes also said any option is the best option for Columbia.
"As long as one of them gets picked, that's what's best for Columbia. Exactly where it goes is really up to the residents so they have been very vocal with their council members and that's our structure, that's the whole point. The community will decide precisely where but in terms of what's the community good, what's the best alternative, as long as we built one, that's the best alternative," Matthes said.