Thursday, January 28, 2021

Proposed APS Power Line into the Village of Oak Creek

Community Survey
– Proposed Arizona Public Service Power Line
into the Village of Oak Creek –

The purpose of this survey is for Big Park Regional Coordinating Council (BPRCC) to solicit your views on the proposed construction of a new high-voltage powerline by Arizona Public Service (APS) into the Village of Oak Creek (VOC). Your response will help inform BPRCC as it formulates a position in response to the U.S. Forest Service’s next request for public comment on the proposal.

Background information is provided below the survey link to familiarize you with the project.

Click here to take the survey (estimated time 7 minutes)

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion with us!

Background on Proposed APS Transmission Line


Photo #1: View of Big Park looking south to the saddle between two mesas. Red arrow shows apx. route of Kel Fox Trail and the proposed power line into VOC. Photo #2: View from the saddle looking north across Big Park.

Project Description Arizona Public Service (APS) has proposed building an above-ground, high-voltage transmission line into the Village of Oak Creek (VOC). The powerline would be strung on 65-foot high single steel poles (monopoles). The preferred route that APS proposes would begin 15 miles south of the VOC in McGuireville, continue NW along Cornville Road, NE along Beaverhead Flat Road, then follow the historic Kel Fox Trail cross country into the Village. Within Big Park, the transmission line would run along an existing power line to the East, cross SR-179, then turn north terminating at the existing APS substation at the SW corner of SR-179 and Jacks Canyon Road.

Project Objectives According to APS, the purpose of the project is 3-fold: 1) to help prevent future power outages in the VOC; 2) to provide voltage stability (click for more info) to prevent future blackouts; and 3) to add new capacity to meet the needs of existing customers and new development.

Alternatives APS studied several other potential overland routes, as well as two alternative approaches to an above-ground line along Kel Fox Trail. Those alternate approaches were: 1) underground burial of the transmission line, which they deem too costly; and 2) a battery storage facility located in the VOC. Although APS has indicated a battery storage facility may prove the least costly alternative, they believe that battery storage fails to meet the established objectives.

APS map showing potential power line routes into VOC. All the options would converge just S of the VOC and run along Kel Fox Trail into the Village.

Project Trade-Offs

Above-Ground Transmission Line Approach


  • Would help prevent local power outages in the VOC by providing redundancy to the existing line into VOC. APS has declined to provide substantiating data requested by the BPRCC of recent power outages.
  • The new line would mitigate voltage fluctuations and add increased power capacity for new development.
  • An above-ground line would mar the scenic views along the projected route for Big Park residents and visitors. According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), this area is characterized as highly desired “scenic integrity.”
  • A high voltage above-ground line increases wildfire risks. USFS analysis of wildfire risk indicates the overall chance of a wildfire in populated areas of the VOC (from all sources not just power lines) is 68% higher than in other Arizona communities. In California, a major utility was reported as the cause (click for more info) for over 1,500 wildfires over a 2½ year period.
  • APS will shut down above-ground power lines as needed to reduce wildfire risk or allow first responders to enter the fire zone safely.
  • An above-ground power line would negatively impact property values of residential property in the area.
Battery Storage Facility


  • Storing electrical power from conventional transmission line, a battery storage facility would help prevent local power outages in the VOC by providing additional backup.
  • A battery storage facility is likely to be less costly than a new, above-ground transmission line, thereby reducing the need for higher utility rates.
  • A battery storage facility could eliminate the need for a new, unsightly powerline.
  • A battery storage facility could be the first step in transitioning to a community microgrid (see below) powered by solar energy, thereby reducing VOC’s greenhouse emissions.
  • Battery storage is a relatively new technology. Two years ago an APS battery storage facility in Surprise AZ caught fire, causing a container explosion and injuries to several first-responders.
  • APS claims – although it has provided no substantiating data – that a battery storage facility would not satisfy the community’s need for additional electrical power.

Community Microgrid

  • A community microgrid is a way for communities to meet their energy needs locally. A community microgrid would assist VOC in reducing greenhouse gases while allowing the option of staying connected to conventional powerlines.
  • Many state and local governments, along with local communities and APS, have committed to 100% clean energy solutions.
  • Like the battery storage option, a community microgrid is likely to cost less and lower residential utility bills over the long-term, compared to a new power line.
  • Battery storage costs are coming down with newer and more efficient battery technologies.
  • Arizona has more sunny days than any other state, according to


  • Battery storage is a relatively new technology and could result in a thermal fire on location if not constructed to the highest standard.
  • To avoid impairing the pristine red rock views surrounding VOC, the solar panel facility would have to be sited carefully in an out-of-the way location.

Current Status APS must be granted a special waiver by the USFS in order to construct a power line on the national forestland south of the VOC into the Village. USFS is expected to release a draft Environmental Analysis for public comment sometime in late spring or summer of 2021.The USFS has essentially five options to consider in its final decision:

  • Approve the above-ground transmission line
  • Approve a buried power line
  • Approve a combination of above and below-ground
  • Approve a battery storage project (possibly adjacent to the existing VOC substation)
  • Disapprove the project
APS says that both the above and below-ground transmission line options would require a maintenance road along the route. There is an existing underground natural gas line along Kel Fox Trail. A USFS spokes-person indicated the trail may have to be re-routed if the electrical line were buried parallel to the gas line.The battery storage facility would likely be about the size of a small mobile home and include special fire barriers inside.

Photo top: Typical lithium-ion battery storage container.
Photo bottom: An APS monopole, similar to which would be used in the project.