Community Voices: Giant towers of power rise in Forsyth County

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Community Voices: Giant towers of power rise in Forsyth County

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A lineman works on a newly installed 120 foot tall electric transmission tower along Ronald Reagan Boulevard near Cumming. it is one of 79 new towers put in place to provide for current and projected future energy needs in Forsyth County. Marty Farrell for the AJC

Anyone driving around Forsyth County over the last few months surely has noticed the giant power transmission poles being erected along Peachtree Parkway and Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

To find out more, I met up with Craig Heighton, the Public Affairs Director for the Georgia Transmission Corporation. Its job is to get power from where it is generated to users all over the state. Craig says his company is actually owned by 38 of Georgia’s Electric Membership Cooperatives including Sawnee EMC serving Forsyth County and six others in Greater North Georgia.

Anyway, back to the poles.

Craig says engineering models created by Georgia Transmission and Sawnee EMC a decade ago indicated that current and anticipated growth dictated major upgrades to prevent future blackouts and brownouts. It necessitated the doubling of power transmitted to our community from 115,000 volts to 230,000 volts.

The two cooperatives began acquiring land and rights of way needed for what is now the installation of 79 massive poles that will be 140 to 150 feet tall on Peachtree Parkway carrying both 115 and 230 kilovolt lines and around 120 feet tall on Ronald Reagan for the transmission of 230 kilovolt service.

When I say these things are big it’s no joke. The base can be up to 10 feet wide and the foundation needed to hold up these behemoths is imbedded up to 25 feet in the ground.

These monster poles are needed because of the dictates of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requiring certain clearances since existing utilities such as the 15,000 to 25,000 volt lines that Sawnee EMC uses to distribute electricity to homes and businesses as well as cable TV, telephone and fiber optics along the Peachtree Parkway/Ronald Reagan Route will be attached to the new poles below the main transmission lines. This allows the older utility poles now in use to be removed.

When completed later this year, the new utility poles will cover 6½ miles and will cost around $28 million for the towers, the new Pinecrest Substation near Sharon road and other associated construction projects. Heighton says the project should ensure that residents of Cumming and Forsyth County have a reliable and adequate supply of electricity for the next 70 years or so.

One pleasant surprise is that according to Heighton, the cost is already built into the rate structure and Sawnee customers won’t get the unpleasant jolt of a bigger bill.

Heighton says although delivering electricity to people is a very complex undertaking, they have a simple responsibility, “making sure that when people flip the switch the lights will come on.”

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