August 17, 2015 : By
With the rapid growth that Liberty University has experienced in the last decade, there is no doubt that the Central Virginia region has felt the impact. While Liberty is working to meet the demands of a resident student population that is expected to grow over 15,000 by 2020, area utilities are working rapidly to make adjustments to their infrastructure as well.
Since 2000, resident enrollment has more than doubled at Liberty, and the university is in the midst of more than $500 million in capital improvements on campus with new academic and athletic facilities, new residence halls, and upgrades to existing facilities.
Liberty University’s growth was a contributing factor to a $28 million project planned by Appalachian Power, which supplies electricity to Liberty’s campus as well as the city of Lynchburg and its surrounding counties. The South Lynchburg Area Improvements Project involves a new 9-mile electric transmission line, a large portion of which will be located near campus, and construction of a new substation in Campbell County at a site just south of campus. The project began this summer and is expected to be in service by June 2017.
For Appalachian Power, a sister company of American Electric Power's servings territory in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, the Lynchburg area has impressively outpaced other areas in added system transformer capacity for the past few years.
In a presentation on the project to the Virginia State Corporation Commission last year, Appalachian Power engineers said the Lynchburg area is one of the fastest-growing areas in their service territory and noted Liberty’s role: “The phenomenal recent growth of Liberty University has contributed to significant commercial development in the area, which is expected to continue as Liberty’s expansion continues. The project is essential to accommodate this expected future growth and development and to maintain a reliable supply of electricity to existing and future customers in the south Lynchburg area.”
Liberty President Jerry Falwell said he was pleased to hear the project was approved and the work has begun.
“I believe that there is no better indicator of economic growth than the consumption of electricity. The fact that the demand for electricity in the southern and western sections of the Lynchburg area has increased faster in recent years than many other urban areas in the 11 states served by American Electric Power can only be attributed to the rapid growth of Liberty University,” he said. “Appalachian Power is demonstrating through its significant investments in infrastructure in the South Lynchburg area that it is dedicated to bringing its customers reliable service for many years to come. Both the Liberty University community and the residents of the surrounding vicinity are grateful for Appalachian’s foresight and commitment.”
An economic impact study commissioned in 2014 concluded that Liberty is “a rapidly growing institution that has a significant economic and fiscal impact on the Lynchburg (Metropolitan Statistical Area) and the state of Virginia as a whole, and plays a very active and positive leadership role within its community and the state.”