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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is this project needed?
    The existing poles and power lines have been in place for nearly 100 years and nearing the end of their operational life and require an upgrade. In order to improve reliability, operational efficiency and reduce wildfire risk, APS is planning to remove 4.4 miles of line located in a heavily forested area west of Walker Road in the south Prescott area that helps serve customers in the communities of Walker, Potato Patch and Lynx Lake. The line will be relocated to the APS right-of-way along Walker Rd. between Big Bug Mesa Rd. and Liese Drive.
  • How does this project prioritize safety and reliability?
    By moving the lines from their current location in a heavily forested area with severely restricted access (no access roads), APS will be able to access the line more quickly and restore power more efficiently in the event of an outage. The new poles will be wrapped with materials that improve evacuation routes by helping to prevent them from failing or falling during a potential wildfire. In addition, the new power poles will be equipped with avian protection devices. Overhead power lines are easier to inspect and maintain, and also easier to identify and repair faults, compared to underground infrastructure. The new location along Walker Road will also allow APS to deenergize the line more quickly in the unfortunate event of a nearby wildfire. Visit our website to learn more about APS's wildfire mitigation strategy and public safety power shutoff program, which could be used in the event of extreme fire risk.
  • Does this project have to follow APS’ line siting process?
    No, that process is only required for high voltage transmission lines greater than 115kV; however, APS also follows that process for power lines greater than 69kV. In this case, the power lines being relocated are lower voltage 12kV distribution lines.
  • What is the difference between “DISTRIBUTION” lines and “TRANSMISSION” lines?
    The lines being relocated to the Walker Road right-of-way are 12kV distribution lines. Distribution lines typically refer to 12kV lower voltage lines that distribute power from the substations to the electric consumers or customers. Transmission lines typically refer to higher voltage lines (typically 69kV and higher) that transmit power from the generating station to substations.
  • Why do the poles have to be relocated along Walker Road right- of-way?
    Because of the rugged terrain where the line is currently located, APS is only able to access the facilities to provide maintenance or make needed repairs by helicopter. Once relocated, the new line will be more easily accessible for increased maintenance and inspection activities, greatly reducing the frequency and length of unplanned power outages. The relocated line will also be equipped with new wires that will improve power quality and will connect to an additional substation providing increased redundancy that can help crews restore power more quickly in the event of an outage.
  • Why doesn't APS place all electric powerlines underground?
    Placing power lines underground is significantly more expensive than placing power lines overhead. This is due to additional required construction plus the use of special materials and conductors required for underground use. In particular, trenching or boring for the entire length of the power line can be difficult and expensive. Depending on the voltage and the location of the power line and considering the inability to be cooled by the ambient (surrounding) air as in an overhead configuration, underground power lines may require special technology to keep the wires cool. This technology may include oil or gas filled pipe type conductor, forced and refrigerated oil cooled piping and forced airflow. Buried power lines can also extend power outages, as it may take additional time to locate a specific power issue, and take more time to access the fault and repair it. Additionally, underground systems can be prone to flooding in certain conditions. Typically, lower voltage (distribution) lines are buried with new developments, as the additional cost to place the lines underground is passed onto home buyers or business owners by the developer through impact fees.
  • Why do some areas have underground power lines and others do not?
    To help keep prices lower for all customers, and provide efficient access to our systems, our standard practice is overhead construction. However, there may be instances where underground installation takes place, such as through development agreements or where individual customers have paid for the lines to be placed underground through a utility facilities improvement district that is established by municipal and/or county authorities. The local municipal authority may establish an improvement district if approved by a majority of affected property owners. A district is a taxing authority, taxing affected property owners in order to raise funds for the additional cost of placing cables underground (See A.R.S. § 48-620).
  • How tall are the poles for the overhead power lines?
    The planned project will consist of 7 miles of overhead power lines on 45-to-55-foot steel poles (42 to 49 feet above ground) – similar to poles that already exist along Walker Road today.
  • Why is the new pole alignment longer than what exists in the forested area today?
    The new planned alignment is 7 miles in length, with the additional 2.6 miles being related to the circuitous nature of following the Walker Road right-of-way and will allow the area to be powered by multiple substations which improves redundancy and, therefore, reliability. This should also reduce the frequency and length of unplanned outages in this area in the future.
  • Will these poles look similar to those along Copper Basin Road?
    No, Copper Basin Road power poles accommodate 69kV transmission lines, are about 65-75 feet tall, and have about 7 wires. The planned power poles for Walker Road right-of-way are 12kV distribution lines, about 45-55 feet tall, and accommodate 4 APS wires.
  • What will the poles look like along Walker Road right-of-way?
    The planned power poles for Walker Road right-of-way are 12kV distribution lines, about 45-55 feet tall (42-49 feet above ground), about 3 to 4.5 feet in diameter at the base, with 4 APS wires. These weathered steel poles will be placed every 200 to 400 feet as the span length allows; the average span length is 262 feet between structures.
  • When is construction scheduled?
    Construction is currently scheduled to begin in Spring 2024 and nearby residents will receive additional information prior to construction beginning.
  • Will APS need to acquire permits?
    A portion of the proposed route along Walker Road will cross U.S. Forest Service land and may require a Federal environmental (NEPA) study that will take nearly a year to complete.
  • Would APS consider undergrounding in this area?
    Unfortunately, along with cost, there are several challenges that prevent APS from considering undergrounding in this area. There is no straight path for the new line to be installed; therefore, installation would include numerous large concrete manholes throughout the project. Because of the narrow corridor, construction would require significant, lengthy road closures, as would any maintenance wherein APS would need access to the manholes. Construction would be impossible to permit or execute without compromising safety and extensive tree removal.
  • How come power lines are placed underground in some areas?
    While the APS standard practice is overhead construction, there may be instances where underground installation takes place, such as through development agreements or where individual customers have paid for the lines to be placed underground through a Utility Facilities Improvement District that is established by municipal and/or county authorities.
  • What if residents in the area would like to pay for an underground installation?
    The local municipal authority may establish an Improvement District, if approved by a majority of affected property owners. The District is a taxing authority, taxing affected property owners in order to raise funds for the additional cost of placing cables underground (See A.R.S. § 48-620). Due to the timeline for this project, APS will begin installing the overhead lines in Spring of 2024. If an Improvement District is established, APS would then need to return to relocate the lines underground.
  • Has APS looked into the cost of trying to underground these power lines compared to the cost of overhead lines?
    Trenching and installing power lines underground has historically been higher in cost than installing them overhead. Construction for the underground line is estimated at $35 million; however, this is not based on engineered drawings because the terrain and route challenges are so substantial that this option was ruled out in the internal planning process. The underground estimate is over 2.5 times higher than the proposed overhead route along Walker Road, and it is not prudent or responsible to pass those costs onto all APS customers when a safe, affordable, and technically more sound option exists.
  • Why do other states, such as California, underground power lines?
    Regulatory authorities in other states, such as California, have required utilities to bury extra-high voltage transmission lines in some cases. However, the requirements generally do not apply to lower voltage distribution lines such as the 12kV lines APS is relocating for the Walker Road Project.
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