ITC Kansas transmission project nearing completion

The second phase of ITC Great Plains’ Spearville-to-Axtell 345-kV line, also known as the Kansas Electric Transmission Authority (KETA) Project, is expected to be completed by the end of the year, more than six months ahead of schedule, according to ITC.

Phase II of the project, an 85-mile segment from the Post Rock substation northwest of Hays, Kan., to the Nebraska border, is ahead of schedule and significantly under budget.

“The original in-service date for Phase II was June 2013,” an ITC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 26. “Everybody has been working toward a target date of Dec. 31 for some time, and it looks like we’re going to make that without any problem.”

The first phase of the project, an 89-mile segment, from Spearville, Kan., to the Post Rock substation northwest of Hays, Kan., was placed into service on June 29, providing additional transmission capacity between Hays and Dodge City, which are two of the major demand centers in western Kansas, according to the company.

KETA identified the line as a project that will bring significant economic and reliability benefits to Kansas and the regional grid, the company said in its project fact sheet, noting that the line will ease congestion across the transmission network, addressing the lack of high-voltage transmission lines in central and western Kansas.

The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) is building the final segment of the project, approximately 50 miles of transmission stretching from the Kansas/Nebraska state line to Axtell, Neb.

“We have all of our structures up and almost 90% of the conductor has been pulled,” an NPPD spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 26. “We’re coordinating our work with ITC’s, and we’ll be done at just about the same time.”

The project will help relieve congestion issues that affect NPPD’s 1,365-MW Gerald Gentleman coal-fired power plant near Sutherland, Neb., about 22 miles west of North Platte.

“Especially when there’s a lot of wind on the lines, we really can’t operate Sutherland as well as we’d like to,” the spokesperson said. “This is going to help a lot to ease some of those congestion problems on our 345-kV.”

Ahead of schedule, under budget

“Our initial estimate for the cost of the entire project from Spearville to the Nebraska border was $200m,” the ITC spokesperson said. “The most recent figure discussed on our quarterly earnings call was $165m but that’s under periodic review” and could be revised before the project is completed.

The economy was a factor.

“Some of the costs were quite a bit lower than projected because of the economic downturn,” the spokesperson said, noting that the reduced cost will benefit a range of participants. “It’s great news for the ratepayers and for everybody. It means the cost-benefit ratio is that much improved.”

In Kansas, the new line will eventually connect to another ITC transmission project called the Kansas V-Plan.

The V-Plan is a 122-mile, 345-kV transmission line that originates at Spearville, Kan., and terminates at the Thistle substation near Medicine Lodge, Kan. That project, which is sponsored by parent company ITC Holdings (NYSE:ITC), is expected to cost $300m. Construction is set to start in 2013 with the project coming online in 2014.

ITC Great Plains is a subsidiary of ITC Grid Development, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of ITC Holdings.