The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved Progress Energy Carolinas' selected route for a 64-mile, 230-kV electric transmission line between Richmond and Cumberland counties in the North Carolina Sandhills.

The transmission line, announced in 2007, is part of a project that includes a 600-megawatt natural gas-fueled power plant to be built at the company's Richmond County Energy Complex near Hamlet. The N.C. Utilities Commission issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the power plant Oct. 13, confirming that it is needed to meet rising energy demands. The certificate for the power line was issued Oct. 31.

The transmission route runs from the Richmond County Energy Complex east along Interstate 74 for about five miles. It then turns to the southeast and joins Progress Energy's existing 500-kV transmission line corridor just before entering Scotland County. The route then runs parallel to existing 230-kV and 500-kV transmission lines for approximately 18 miles through Scotland County. After crossing the Lumber River, the route turns northeast and extends across rural Hoke County south of Raeford into Cumberland County, where it turns north to enter the Fort Bragg Army Base. There, the line will tie into an existing Progress Energy Carolinas electric substation.
The route was chosen from among about 500 potential routes because it minimizes the overall impact of the 230-kiloVolt (kV) line on the area, including homes, and natural and cultural resources.

Progress Energy officials met with hundreds of property owners and others as part of the process of evaluating potential routes. The company held three public meetings in Richmond and Hoke counties in November and January. Input from those meetings, and from surveys completed by area property owners, factored heavily in the route selection.

The company also worked extensively and collaboratively with environmental agencies to minimize impacts and with Fort Bragg officials to site as much of the line as possible on base property without compromising the base's critical training missions in supporting national security.

Progress Energy Carolinas representatives will move forward with acquisition of easements to accommodate the power line. The company expects to negotiate easements with about 200 property owners. The total length of the line is 64 miles, including about eight miles in Richmond County, 17 miles in Scotland County, 21 miles in Hoke County and 18 miles in Cumberland County (including about 12 miles on Fort Bragg).

Current plans call for the power plant to be in service in mid-2011 to meet the region's growing demand for electricity. In-service dates are subject to change based on changes in customer growth, wholesale load forecasts, changes in expected levels of energy-efficiency participation and renewable energy availability, among other factors.

The project is a critical part of Progress Energy Carolinas' ability to meet the growing needs of its Carolinas customers. Even in the current economic downturn, the company expects its service area to grow by more than 20,000 new homes and businesses this year. Average household use of electricity has increased by about 50 percent in the last three decades as home size has grown and as the use of electronics has expanded in support of modern lifestyles and businesses. The system of electricity production and delivery must keep pace with that growth.