Texas approves negotiated settlement over SPS 115-kV line

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) on April 12 unanimously approved a negotiated agreement between Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) and several area landowners over the proposed Newhart to Kress project in northwest Texas (Docket No. 39798).

The project is one of 17 “Power for the Plains” projects approved by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in 2010, and which SPS’ parent company Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) is developing across Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

After the utility filed its application for a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) with the PUCT in October 2011, several landowners sought to intervene. SPS requested the matter be referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings in January after PUCT staff determined that the proceeding no longer qualified for informal disposition.

Negotiations followed a Feb. 2 preconference hearing. On March 9, the utility filed a unanimous stipulation that included an agreed-upon route for the line and resolved all other issues in the docket, according to the proposed order.

The agreed-upon alignment for the new line is approximately 20 miles long, about six miles longer than that company’s preferred route. According to the agreement, the line will cost $9.6m, which is approximately $300,000 more than the utility’s preferred route but less than other options presented in the original application.

“We want to gain the best possible outcome for our customers,” an SPS spokesperson told TransmissionHub on April 19, adding that all of the Power for the Plains projects are complicated because of the large number of landowners involved.

The project will also include the construction of the new Newhart substation and upgrades to the existing Kress substation. The cost for the substation work is estimated at $15.8m. The proposed in-service date for the facility is 2013 to 2014.

The proposed line is one of four proposed lines that will connect the Newhart substation to other SPS substations. Two others, the Newhart to Castro (Docket No. 39873) and Newhart to Lamton lines (Docket No. 40193), are 115-kV while the Newhart to Swisher line (Docket No. 39982) is a 230-kV facility. The lines are intended to help improve electric reliability, strengthen the existing transmission grid and provide an outlet for additional wind generation, according to the utility.

“This is our home territory [and] these are also our customers,” the SPS spokesperson said. “We have a long-term relationship with them so we will sometimes take a little bit longer to make sure we have a good working relationship down the road.”