SPRING HILL — One of the largest proposed power transmission line projects in the state could have a big impact on Hernando County.
Progress Energy plans to expand its transmission capability through 10 Florida counties, from Levy to Polk. The 200 miles of lines, which would help feed the state's growing demand for electricity, would carry high-voltage electricity from a proposed nuclear plant in Levy County, as well as from the company's complex in Crystal River.
Preliminary plans in Hernando call for using either the existing routes that cut through heavily populated Spring Hill, or running new lines along the Suncoast Parkway. New lines could also go up along Citrus Way in the northern part of the county.
In all cases, that could mean acquiring additional right of way, though the company has said it might not need any new land at all. Progress Energy plans to designate more precise transmission routes later this year, and would begin to acquire any needed property about the same time.
Overall, the entire project is close to a decade from completion, said Buddy Eller, the company's director of Florida communications.
Nearly 23,000 potentially affected Hernando property owners have been sent letters from the company, encouraging them to attend two public sessions in Spring Hill this week. That's more than half of the 40,000 letters mailed in a three-county region that also includes Levy and Citrus counties.
At the sessions, residents will have an opportunity to view maps, ask questions and bring up any concerns, said Progress Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs.
If the company chooses to construct new lines, it would need a strip up to 250 feet — 125 feet on either side of the electric pole — to build them.
In the case of existing lines, details get fuzzy, Jacobs explained.
"Generally, that will minimize the impact we have on the surrounding area," she said. "Sometimes we need additional right of way; sometimes we don't."
In Pinellas and Pasco counties, where environmentalists are concerned about land preserves that could be affected by the power line project, the company has said it would require up to 125 feet where lines already exist.
With the approval of the state Public Service Commission and other agencies, construction is planned to begin in 2012, with completion in 2016.
The lines are being planned in three main segments: from the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County to the Leesburg area in Lake County; from Levy County south to Hernando County and potentially into Pasco and Pinellas counties; and from Tarpon Springs to Kathleen in Polk County.
Two kinds of structures could be used to suspend the lines, either single steel poles that are up to 165 feet tall, or H-frame, two-pole structures that are about 120 feet tall.
The structures would be spaced 700 to 1,300 feet apart, depending on which type is used and the terrain.
In the end, Progress Energy officials said they want the final transmission routes to be mutually acceptable for everyone involved.
"We realize that we're not going to please everybody," said Gail Simpson, manger of public policy for the power company. "No one wants transmission (lines) near them, especially in highly populated areas. But we may not have a lot of options."
Chandra Broadwater can be reached
or (352) 848-1432.
200 The length, in miles, of power lines that would run through 10 Florida counties.
250 The width, in feet, needed for a strip of land to accommodate lines.
23,000 Potential-ly affect-ed Hernando County property owners who have been invited to two public sessions.