SMECO To Spend $110 Million To Upgrade Power Lines

$110 Million Project Will Meet Increased Demand, Ensure Continued Reliability, says Utility

Proposed routes for SMECO's proposed power transmission line upgrades.
Proposed routes for SMECO's proposed power transmission line upgrades. (Click image to enlarge)

HUGHESVILLE, Md. (April 22, 2008)—Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) on April 15 announced a proposal to improve its transmission delivery system. The effort has been termed the Southern Maryland Reliability Project.

SMECO intends to increase the capacity of its existing 69-kilovolt (kV) transmission line located in Calvert and St. Mary's counties to 230 kV. The upgrade will provide additional capacity and create a continuous "loop" of electricity around SMECO's service area.

SMECO says the move will create greater operational flexibility to move power around and to isolate and minimize power outages.

Over the past 30 years, SMECO's customer base has tripled, while the amount of energy used is five times greater and expected to continue to grow. SMECO says the project will help it meet the power needs of its customers.

"Our customers' increasing demand for electricity means we need to improve our transmission system," said SMECO President and CEO Austin J. Slater, Jr. "That's why we have proposed the Southern Maryland Reliability Project - to ensure reliable power for SMECO's customer-members with minimal effect on current rates or the environment."

The utility estimates the total cost of the project at $110 million. SMECO says it will add $20 million per year to the current $50 million annual construction budget and will be "financed over many years."

The utility notes that the power lines will only be used to distribute power to SMECO customers. They will not be used to transmit power for sale outside the SMECO service area.

Slater and other SMECO personnel presented the plans for the project to the Calvert County Commissioners at their weekly meeting on April 15.

Largely following the same route as the current line and staying within existing rights-of-way, the new power line will run south from Holland Cliff through Calvert County, cross the Patuxent River, and enter St. Mary's County to end in Lexington Park. For the most part, new poles will replace existing poles.

Although SMECO says it will consider alternative routes, new rights-of-way are not deemed necessary along the preferred route, with the exception of areas like the lower Patuxent River crossing.

SMECO says it has spent considerable time meeting with state and local elected officials, business leaders, environmental organizations, and community groups in the area, and it plans to hold several public open houses in the upcoming months. SMECO says they are committed to working with communities along the route to ensure the improvement project is done right.

For homeowners who are concerned about potentially health-affecting electro-magnetic fields (EMF) which are generated by overhead, high voltage power transmission lines, SMECO says it will pay to study the EMF levels at the residence upon request by the customer.

Public feedback and concerns raised during the open houses will be incorporated into the application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the project. The CPCN will be submitted to the Maryland Public Service Commission in October 2008.

SMECO expects to receive approval for the project in 2010, begin construction in 2011, and complete the project by 2015.


Southern Maryland Reliability Project

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