Nitpicking a Good Op-Ed Piece

Bil Lepp and Scott Williams wrote a fine opinion piece that appeared in yesterday’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

A couple of their comments, however, have prompted me to put fingers to keyboard.

Guys, lay off of Sandra Squire.  She has nothing to do with the WV PSC’s final decision in the PATH case.  She is the PSC’s Executive Secretary, a career administrative position.  Only the three Commissioners at the PSC will be deciding this case.  If you want to pick on someone, pick on PSC Chairman Michael Albert, a former power company lawyer appointed to the PSC by Governor Manchin.

Mr. Lepp and Mr. Williams state that PATH is designed to go to New Jersey.  That is not correct.  PATH is a significant part of a network of transmission lines, new and existing, that is designed to move AEP/Allegheny’s power as far away as New Jersey, but the PATH line itself will end just south of Frederick, MD near Kemptown.

My final gripe is not directed at Mr. Lepp and Mr. Williams, but at reporters and copy editors of media outlets that write about the PATH line.  I read several articles yesterday that stated PATH would “carry 765 kilovolts of power.”

A brief science lesson for copy editors:  nothing “carries” kilovolts.  Volts are a measure of electrical potential.  PATH’s 765 kV rating is a capacity rating, like pounds per square inch on water pipe, not a measure of how much electricity is flowing through the lines.  Energy flowing through power lines is measured in watts.

Click here to go to an excellent article from the journal The Industrial Physicist on why new power lines don’t make the power grid more reliable.  Look at Table 1 on the first page of the article.  That table will show you how much wattage variously rated power lines can carry.

After nitpicking Lepp and Williams, I have to give you the final paragraph from their great piece.  It lays out an excellent East Coast demand side management plan that creates jobs for West Virginians.

The resistance to PATH is not an issue just for environmentalists and liberals who want to keep the oceans from rising. Remember your father telling you turn off the lights when you left the room? Your father wasn’t a raging environmentalist trying to save the icecaps. He just wanted a smaller power bill. Instead of building a 224-mile power line, how about we just send Dad to New Jersey? It would be cheaper, have less of an environmental impact, and, if we paid him, it would create a job.