Kentucky's energy superhighways getting upgrade

Posted | August 3, 2018
Transmission work enhancing reliability for customers; economic development for state

Interstate highways may be our fast-paced transportation routes on the ground, but take a look above, and you'll find multi-lane energy highways, in the form of overhead transmission lines, in the air. 

Transmission lines are high voltage power lines, energized up to as much as 765,000 volts, which connect the entire energy grid. The lines transport electric current from generating stations where energy is produced – to substations where it's stepped down and transported through the distribution lines that serve commercial areas and neighborhoods. 

When outages occur within a transmission system, they can have widespread, large-scale impacts – like the Northeast Blackout of 2003. Now recognized as one of the worst power outages in U.S. history, the incident started when a high-voltage power line in Ohio brushed against overgrown trees, causing it to shut down and create an overload and blackout that cascaded across eight U.S. states and Canada, impacting more than 50 million people. 

Minimizing the potential for these types of large-scale outages is one of many reasons keeping transmission systems up-to-date is so critical. 

LG&E and KU are working on ongoing transmission system improvements that include replacing aging equipment such as wooden poles, cross arms, lines and substation controls. The utilities are also implementing cycle-based tree trimming and focused efforts to remove dead, dying, and diseased trees around transmission infrastructure. 

The ongoing work will establish a schedule for keeping trees a safe distance from transmission lines which, if not maintained, can be punishable by a significant fine from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). Company officials anticipate the enhancements, along with other infrastructure upgrades being conducted by the utility, will significantly reduce the duration of outages experienced by customers and ensure a safe, reliable system far into the future. 

"These types of continuous infrastructure upgrades across our service territory help further enhance reliability for our customers, minimizing the frequency of outages as well as the duration of outages when they do occur," said LG&E and KU's Vice President of Transmission, Tom Jessee. "Knowing they can count on safe, reliable service at a reasonable cost is something that keeps Kentucky an attractive place to live and do business."

One of the projects included in the utilities' improvement plan is currently underway in downtown Lexington. Scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2019, the project calls for construction and replacement of portions of overhead and underground electric transmission equipment including circuits, ducts and other infrastructure installed in the 1970s. Replacing these older materials will strengthen the system by reducing the risk of unplanned service interruptions for more than 7,000 customers served by the facilities.

employee supervising pole installation
Replacing older, wooden transmission poles with steel poles is part of our five-year Transmission Improvement Plan.