Following a comprehensive 15-month study, ComEd (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.) yesterday submitted its petition for approval of Phase III of the Northwest Reliability Project to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). ComEd proposes to build a new transmission line and substation to increase electrical capacity and maintain reliability in the fast-growing suburbs such as Gilberts, Algonquin and Huntley.

ComEd shared details about the proposed route and substation site with the public at an open house in Huntley on March 21. This was the sixth open house ComEd held for Phase III. Previous forums solicited public input and provided updates during each step of the project's development. Nearly 500 residents have attended these forums, and the project Web site, http://www.nwreliability-comed.com/, has attracted more than 9000 visits.

"We thank the many local residents, municipal officials and stakeholders for their involvement in the process. Their participation, questions and input were invaluable in selection of the final plan we have submitted to the ICC," said John Costello, ComEd's executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

"With large transmission projects, it is never possible to deliver increased capacity and reliability in an area like this while eliminating all impact to individual stakeholders. But this proposal is the best approach for minimizing any impact and maximizing benefits on behalf of our customers and the region's economic development," Costello said.

The proposed route calls for an 11.6-mile transmission line -- 6.5 miles of which will follow the right of way on the south side of Interstate 90. The line will start at the Gilberts substation near Randall Road and continue west to the new substation site for which ComEd has a purchase agreement at I-90 and Sandwald Road. The transmission line will turn north about a mile east of Route 47 and I-90, following property lines to Kreutzer Road. It then will travel east 2 miles to connect with an existing transmission line feeding the Algonquin substation.

Over the next 12 months the ICC, a state agency that serves as ComEd's regulator, is expected to review ComEd's proposal and schedule public hearings to collect both local and technical input. ComEd cannot begin construction of the transmission line without ICC approval.

Phase III is the final phase of the Northwest Reliability Project, which began in 1994 to increase capacity and reliability in the area. Local demand for electricity is currently growing 6 percent per year -- or triple the average annual growth in the ComEd service area. In addition, over the next five years, local demand is expected to increase at a rate of 10 percent per year.

During the Northwest Reliability Project's first two phases, ComEd constructed a new substation and transmission line north of Huntley in 1999, and extended the transmission line to a new substation near Algonquin in 2001.

Phase III will add about 68 MW of much needed capacity to serve businesses and residents in southeast McHenry and northeast Kane counties. (On average, 1 MW can provide enough electricity to serve approximately 225 average-sized homes.)

Extra transmission pathways created by the Northwest Reliability Project also will enhance local reliability for customers served by the Gilberts, Algonquin, North Huntley, and the proposed "Sandwald" substation near I-90 and Sandwald Road. Currently, transmission lines serve the Gilberts, Algonquin, and North Huntley substations from only one direction. Phase III calls for the completion of the loop connecting the three substations, so that each substation will be served from two directions. This creates an independent source of power in case one of the transmission lines goes down.