By DAVID GREEN
A new high-voltage line that will soon pass high above the north side of Fayette will stay out of reach for local electricity users.
Instead, it’s Williams County residents who will benefit from the power source as communities served by municipal systems will buy the electricity at rates below what Fayette pays.
Preparations for the 17-mile line began months ago when Toledo Edison’s real estate division began seeking easements from property owners along the route.
“It’s been going very well,” said Edison’s Gary Keys.
Fulton County easements are nearly all in place, he said, and the majority of those from Williams County have been signed.
The new line will benefit some Edison customers along the way, Keys said, because in addition to the high voltage transmission line, there will be a smaller distribution line that can be tapped to increase power at a farm, for example, where additional electricity is needed to run a grain dryer.
Discussion about the line started about 11 years ago, Keys said, when Edison’s parent company, First Energy, agreed to provide a new power source for Williams County.
The primary need for power is Menard’s manufacturing and distribution facility under construction in Holiday City, but benefits of the new line go beyond that.
Pioneer mayor Ed Kidston is delighted to have the new system coming and says it will benefit both First Energy and the municipal power systems in Pioneer, Bryan, Edgerton and Montpelier.
“These municipalities purchase their power through AMP-Ohio on a wholesale level,” he explained. “This energy comes from various suppliers.”
AMP-Ohio (American Municipal Power-Ohio) is a nonprofit corporation that coordinates and negotiates power supply options.
Years ago the four Williams County communities formed their own joint venture to set up a network of municipal systems that receives power from the south.
With the new line in place, Pioneer and Holiday City will use the First Energy system as their primary source of power and the existing line will serve as a backup. Bryan, Edgerton and Montpelier will now have the new line to serve as their backup.
The new 69 kilovolt line will start at Edison’s substation east of Fayette on U.S. 20 and travel north to County Road S. From there the line will follow County Road S into Williams County. The line will eventually dip back down to U.S. 20 and travel toward Pioneer. Pioneer will need to extend a line about two miles east to tie into the system.
The line will then travel down County Road 16 and end east of Holiday City, where another municipal line will be constructed to tie in.
All new, taller utility poles will be set along the route, said Edison’s Trent Dominque who oversees Edison’s Fulton County lines. A few existing poles in the Fayette area can be used and workers were clearing old lines last week on the north side of Fayette.
“We’ve got about the first mile and a half completed from U.S. 127,” Dominique said.
Kidston said he expects the system to be operational a year from now, and Keys believes Edison’s portion of the work could be complete by the end of the year.
The substation on U.S. 20 must still be upgraded to handle the increase in capacity.
A 69 kV line will feed directly into Menard’s, Keys said, which pales to the energy devoured by NorthStar Steel (349 kV) but far exceeds the energy consumption of Fayette, which is closer to 12 kV.
This leads to the differential in prices for power, Keys said.
“Any time you have a large entity that can buy bulk power in large quantities, there can be a negotiated price,” he said.
“We have the ability to buy power at wholesale,” Kidston said. “We own our own distribution lines.”
As a member of AMP-Ohio, Pioneer owns portions of several energy production facilities and pays transmission costs to various companies.
Electricity is delivered throughout the community via a distribution system that’s owned and maintained by the village, Kidston said. All the services for the customer are taken care of by the village, rather than relying on Edison.
He understands the frustration that Fayette residents might feel when they’re buying power at a higher price from an investor-owned utility—he knows someone who lives just outside of Pioneer and pays much higher rates—but he also knows there are some reasons for the difference in costs.