Appalachian Power Co. has filed a plan with the state to build several miles of new high-voltage power line and a new electrical substation at an industrial park in Carroll County in an effort to attract large industry and new jobs.
The 273-acre Wildwood Commerce Park, located in Hillsville off Interstate 77, has two graded, pad-ready sites — one 100 acres and the other 25 acres — that could accommodate businesses, but no companies have set up shop there.
“Many industrial prospects today won’t consider a site without utility infrastructure in place,” Aaron Walker, Apco’s president and chief operating officer, said in a news release. “Prospects want shovel-ready sites. Providing an upfront, dedicated energy source would be a gamechanger and opportunity to positively impact this area for generations through job creation and tax base.”
If approved, the utility plans to begin construction on the 138-kilovolt transmission line extension and substation this year and complete the project late next year.
“That will support heavy industry and heavy users for electrical power there at the park,” Nichole Hair, executive director of the Mount Rogers Regional Partnership, said in an interview. “It helps with future expansion as well, if the opportunity arises.”
The partnership is an economic development organization covering six localities around the intersection of interstates 77 and 81. It has a contract with the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority to manage the Wildwood Commerce Park, Hair said.
The authority and its member localities of Carroll and Grayson counties and the city of Galax bought the park property in two parts in 2011 and 2013.
Hair said officials traditionally have looked at manufacturers or distribution firms, such as in the food and beverage industry, when considering prospective companies to locate at the park.
“Being right there on 77, with close proximity to Interstate 81, distribution feels like a good fit for that, but we’ve been open to pretty much any industry that would bring capital investment and jobs to the park,” Hair said.
Meanwhile, Appalachian Power said it plans to recoup the expense of its proposed investment at Wildwood through a pilot program approved by the General Assembly that allows Virginia utilities to recover costs associated with infrastructure development at industrial sites identified by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Last year, the State Corporation Commission approved Apco’s request to recover its investment costs at the 720-acre Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Martinsville and the 3,500-acre Southern Virginia Mega Site at Berry Hill.
Wildwood Commerce Park is the third site where the utility has filed with the SCC to recover investment costs.
Apco’s petition, filed late Thursday, seeks to increase its authorized Transmission Rate Adjustment Clause, or T-RAC, by $45.1 million, to a total of $413.2 million, not only to recover the cost of its investment at the Wildwood Commerce Park but also to cover higher transmission charges from PJM, the regional organization that manages wholesale distribution of electricity in 13 states plus Washington, D.C.
The T-RAC is included in customers’ bills to pay for transmission services, fees and construction.
If the SCC approves the request, the monthly bill for an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity would increase by about $4.15, or 2.6%, Apco said.
The request comes on the heels of the utility in late March submitting its triennial rate review application to the SCC. In that, Apco asks for an approximately 16% hike to customers’ base rates, which, if approved, would raise the average residential consumer’s monthly bill by about $20.
Earlier in March, the SCC approved the utility’s request to raise customers’ costs in response to higher fuel prices. That change, which had taken effect in November on an interim basis, increased the average residential consumer’s monthly bill also by about $20.
A decision by the SCC on the latest request is required within three months, the utility said.