The largest electric reliability project in Blue Ridge Energy’s history is progressing with preparation of the site for the new Rutherwood Substation in Watauga County.

While construction on the actual substation for this multi-year project will not begin for another two to three years, a key part of the project has begun to ensure beautification and preservation of woodlands currently on the property.

Design of the substation site by local engineering firm, Municipal Engineering, provides landscaping with a heavy screening of shrubs and trees which will be planted in the next several months so that they will be well established before actual substation construction begins.

The screening plants will be located at the edge of the substation pad to obscure the view from the highway. The slope below the screening plants will be planted in grass.

Landscaping plans include preserving as many trees as possible currently on the property. Over 160,000 cubic feet of fill dirt is being moved from the property adjacent to the substation site in order to construct the substation pad.

The substation is part of the cooperative’s transmission line upgrade, which is originating in Ashe County, to increase capacity and improve reliability for members in the mountain service areas of Blue Ridge Energy.

The project also includes the upgrade of a more than 50-year-old transmission line that is reaching the maximum life span to reliably serve members. The new line will increase capacity by converting an existing 100 kV (kilovolt) line to a 230 kV line to meet current and future member growth and demand for electricity.

The upgraded transmission line will carry power from Ashe County to the new Rutherwood substation, which will provide electricity to all of Watauga County and provide backup capacity for other parts of the Blue Ridge Energy electric system.

“This is a vital project as we must ensure we’re meeting the needs of members year round, especially during the severe cold winter weather our mountains experience,” said Alan Merck, Chief Operating Officer for Blue Ridge Energy.