It may look like little more than a cleared hillside now, but work has begun on what will be the largest reliability project in Lenoir-based Blue Ridge Energy’s history. The Rutherwood Substation will occupy the site in Watauga County, with construction set to begin in two to three years.
The substation is part of the cooperative’s transmission line upgrade, originating in Ashe County, to increase capacity and improve reliability for members in the co-op’s mountain service areas. The project also includes the upgrade of a more than 50-year-old transmission line.
The new line will increase capacity by converting an existing 100 kV line to a 230 kV line to meet current and future member growth and demand for electricity. The new substation will provide electricity to all of Watauga County and provide backup capacity for other parts of Blue Ridge Energy’s 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 Blue Ridge Energy COO Alan Merck.
Current work includes beautification and preservation of woodlands 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.
Landscaping plans include preserving as many trees as possible currently on the property. Over 160,000 cubic feet of fill dirt will be moved over the course of the summer from the property adjacent to the substation site in order to construct the substation pad.