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Sun, May 16

Survey outlines Villager preferences for proposed APS power transmission line

Camille Cox

Camille Cox

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK - A recent community survey about a potential power line revealed much more than simply “We don’t want it.”

The Big Park Regional Coordinating Council recently polled 500 Village of Oak Creek residents about a proposed Arizona Public Service transmission line, getting 231 responses. Nearly all the respondents own a home in the village.

The survey showed, among other things, that more than half of the respondents believe there would be “no benefit” to a new transmission line. The next-most common choice was “reduction in frequency and length of power outages,” but that was only a likely outcome to 22% of those who responded.

“This led to some of the healthiest conversations I’ve had with residents,” said Camille Cox, president of the Big Park Regional Coordinating Council. “While there’s a lot to understand about how utilities work and how energy is transported, it’s also important to understand what’s important to people.”

APS is proposing a transmission line to connect the McGuireville substation, located on high ground near North Restoration Loop and Cornville Road, to the substation at Jacks Canyon Road and State Route 179. The 69,000-volt line would run on 65-foot-tall towers, and the preferred route is directly along Beaverhead Flat Road, according to U.S. Forest service documents.

Cox said there are four options APS is considering in the area: overhead power lines, a battery station, a microgrid (a hybrid combination that involves a battery station) or locating new equipment or infrastructure somewhere else entirely.

The Big Park Council’s community survey is one of many factors to be considered in APS’s decision-making process, Cox said. There is separate feedback-gathering under way with the U.S. Forest Service, she said, and APS has its own direct comment and input steps to the process.

The survey result Cox mentioned first was that 73.5% of those surveyed believe the disadvantages of the overhead line outweigh the advantages. On a separate question, 52.6% feel the best option would be a buried transmission line.

However, Cox said, beyond those clear-cut responses, both the need for new sources of power to the area and the complexities of electricity seemed to muddle some of the other results.

For example, she said, accurate recollections of how many major power outages have affected life in the Village of Oak Creek, over the past few years, might be tough to find. The survey evoked similar numbers for the multiple-choice options of none, once, twice, three to five times or six or more outages.

“That’s a lot to remember, if you weren’t documenting each outage when they happened,” Cox said.

Knowledge of how lithium battery stations function and their potential and suspected risks are not everyday topics for many Arizonans now, Cox said. A 2019 fire and explosion at a similar battery station injured first-responders in Surprise.

APS is focusing heavily on lithium battery storage stations in reducing the number of unsightly, high-voltage overhead lines in the years ahead.

“Who knows that much about electricity?” Cox asked, rhetorically. “I learned a great deal as a result of this survey and the information that came with it.”

Any new transmission line, running from McGuireville to the Village of Oak Creek, will likely need to enter the village area along or near the popular and picturesque Kel Fox Trail. All of the proposed routes on U.S. Forest Service documents show the line ends up along that trail but take different routes along the Beaverhead Flat Road corridor to get there.

Forest Service documents show an expected implementation date of October 2021.

Cox said it was important to get out correct information about the planned APS project, rather than have residents subject to rumors or supposition.

“We want residents to continue to feel better about having these types of conversations,” she said. “We want to keep things that impact residents in the dialogue.”

A link to the survey can be found here.

Here are items from an APS fact sheet on the project:

Why is a new power line needed in this area?

At APS, our goal is to provide our customers with clean, reliable and affordable power. As part of our commitment to provide reliable service, we have identified the need for a second high-voltage power line in your area. The proposed new line will create a loop between the Village of Oak Creek and

McGuireville ensuring enough power for the community, as well as providing resiliency of the system.

What are the benefits of this new power line?

This power line allows another option to deliver electricity to your area. Just like having multiple roads into a community in case one has to be closed, the new line will lead to more timely and safer restoration in case of damage to the line(s). For example, a storm last August along Highway 260

broke 11 poles bringing down power lines which took four days to replace due to the terrain and access issues. Customers in that area are served by a loop similar to what is proposed and had their power restored within two hours while we completed the full restoration.

Why isn't APS using battery storage instead of a new power line?

We explored the idea of battery storage for this project and found that we would need to establish two batteries, one in the Village of Oak Creek and one in McGuireville. This would be a substantial cost, that includes equipment, land costs and additional infrastructure. Ultimately, this would be nearly three times the cost of the power line we are proposing. In addition to cost concerns, the battery system does not provide flexibility and timely restoration options, if needed.

Is APS considering underground power lines instead of overhead?

Yes, we are reviewing all options for both overhead and underground lines. We are working with the Forest Service to review the route of the line and investigating various options. Currently, there are proposed plans to have parts of the new line installed underground.

What are the differences between overhead and underground power lines?

Aside from the visibility and location of where the lines are installed, there are some other differences between the two types of lines to keep in mind:

-Underground lines typically require more loss of trees and other vegetation during installation.

-Installation and maintenance of underground lines is significantly more costly.

-Underground lines take longer to restore in the event of damage. This is due to the need to dig down to the line to do maintenance.

Is APS able to use an existing buried gas line for underground power lines?

We need at least 10 feet of separation between our underground power line and a buried gas line. We cannot use a natural gas line to serve electricity, but we can run parallel to a natural gas line with the appropriate separation for safety.

Who can I contact at APS if I have more questions?

Please contact Public-Affairs Manager Darla DeVille at 928.499.9135 / darla.deville@aps.com.

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