To ensure adequate, reliable power resources for Ashe and Watauga counties, Blue Ridge Energy is beginning a major system improvement project for a 17-mile transmission line between the two counties.

The project will upgrade a more than 50-year-old single-circuit transmission line to a higher voltage double circuit transmission line to provide capacity to meet electricity demand now and for the next 50 years. The upgrade will generally occur within existing cooperative rights-of-way. To safely and reliably carry the higher voltage transmission power lines, smaller wooden poles will be replaced with fewer but much larger steel poles.

Cooperative officials have contacted or met with all members who have property located along the first phase of the project, which begins in Ashe County at Hwy 163 near the Obids community along Idlewild Road to Hwy 221. The cooperative will also meet later this year with members who have property along the second phase of the project, which stretches from Hwy 221 to Hwy 421 near the Rutherwood community in Watauga County. The first phase should begin in the next few weeks and be completed by late 2019. The second phase is targeted to begin in early 2020 and be completed by the end of 2020, depending on weather impacts.

Engineering studies for the project began over 10 years ago and is now being executed as the cooperative monitored and balanced reliability for member energy needs, growth projections, system reliability and cost to determine the best time for the upgrade.

“Our goal at Blue Ridge Energy is to provide the most reliable electricity to withstand the snow, ice, wind and extreme temperatures our region experiences,” said John Coffey, Blue Ridge Energy Chief Operating Officer. “Planning for electric system infrastructure is a complex process to ensure reliability and capacity projects are executed at just the right time to meet member needs,” he added.

The cooperative selected Davis H. Elliot Company, Inc., based in Lexington, KY, for the construction work in Phase 1 of the project. “They are accustomed to working in mountainous terrains and have worked on our transmission system several times on previous projects,” said Coffey.

Blue Ridge Electric is a cooperative utility serving some 75,000 members in Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, and Caldwell counties as well as parts of Avery, Wilkes and Alexander counties.  Learn more at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com.