Amarillo Globe News – Area to plug into State Grid – Four plans considered for moving Panhandle wind power southward

April 11th, 2008  |  Published in Articles

The question has not been where is the wind, but how to move its power to the people.

On Wednesday, the Texas Public Utilities Commission got several answers. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls the electric grid covering most of Texas except the Panhandle, filed 127 pages of plans and explanations of the plans to connect West Texas to the state’s population centers.

“There are turbines everywhere around Sweetwater and Abilene, and it’s equally windy in the Panhandle,” said Walt Hornaday, president of Cielo Wind Power. “The reason there are turbines there is there’s already transmission lines.”

Cielo developed the wind farms at White Deer and Wildorado.

The electric grid that serves the Texas Panhandle operates in many states including parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

ERCOT pursued four scenarios set forth by the PUC. The alternatives send from 12,000 megawatts to 24,000 megawatts eastward from five Competitive Renewable Energy Zones. Two of those zones are in the Panhandle.

“ERCOT applied three overarching criteria to this study: system reliability; sufficient transfer capacity; and how beneficial and cost-effective to consumers each plan would be,” according to the report.

The cost is not a small consideration as running new lines starts at $1 million per mile. Total costs for the ERCOT plans could run from more than $2.95 billion to $6.22 billion. Because the plans route the transmission in straight lines, the cost will be higher when all the inevitable twists and turns are added.

The ERCOT plans show major lines running from southern Carson County, central Gray County and western Briscoe County to the south and east. Smaller lines would reach out to southwest Randall County, along the Castro County border with Swisher County and back to Briscoe County.

After these lines gather the electricity, the plans show major lines taking it to north of Dallas, toward Fort Worth, Waco, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

“These reports are good, but we’re extremely anxious to see plans for specific poles and lines,” Hornaday said. “We hope the schedule keeps moving along.”

The PUC will look at Wednesday’s plans and use them as a basis for a final order setting the exact transmission routes. Interested parties will first have a chance to give their opinions.

The transmission issue has been closely watched in the industry. Multiple transmission companies have been participating in the discussions about it with the PUC. Three more companies filed to intervene in proceedings in the past week, including Lone Star Transmission, Tejas Transmission and Trans-Elect Texas.

They are all seeking to add their voices to the negotiations to decide which companies will get to build segments of the transmission system and which segments they will construct.