SPS begins transmission upgrades in and around Amarillo, Texas

Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) has begun construction on several upgrades that will increase capacity and improve the reliability of the high-voltage transmission system in and around the city of Amarillo, Texas.

By the end of 2013, the utility will spend $33.6m on projects that will add and update transmission facilities in areas of the city that are growing rapidly and, in some cases, outgrowing the existing transmission infrastructure.

Major factors driving the upgrades include the age of the system.

“A lot of the infrastructure was put in 30 and 40 years ago, so there is a need to update and upgrade,” an SPS spokesperson told TransmissionHub Oct. 19.

Rather than replace “like with like,” the utility plans to use up-to-date technology for the upgrades. “As we put money into upgrades and updates, we’re going to use the latest technologies that will hopefully last for many years to come,” the spokesperson said.

The region’s rapid growth is also contributing to the need for a system update.

“We’re seeing a lot of oil and gas exploration, so the system is really being driven a lot by that,” the spokesperson said. As a result, “Amarillo is doing quite well economically and really didn’t suffer the effects of the recession the way other parts of the country did. The city has continued to grow.”

Much of the growth is taking place in the city’s north, east, and south outer edges, and the utility hasn’t always kept up with that growth, the spokesperson said.

The company is working on several projects to enhance service in those three areas:

• North Amarillo – Build the new Rolling Hills substation, upgrade the capacity at the existing Hastings substation, and build a new 230-kV kV transmission line to connect the two. The line is expected to be placed in service in 2013.

• East Amarillo – Upgrade the existing line connecting the East Plant substation to the upgraded Hastings substation from 69-kV to 115-kV to improve power flow into east Amarillo.

• South Amarillo – Upgrade the Randall County substation to accommodate a new 230-kV line that will run to the existing Amarillo South substation. That upgrade is in addition to the recently completed rebuild of the 58-mile, 115-kV Randall County to Kress transmission line.

Upgrading and modernizing the transmission system not only helps prevent and minimize outages on the system, but also supports the efforts of local economic developers who promote reliable, plentiful and low-cost power to businesses seeking to relocate or expand in the Amarillo area, Riley Hill, president and CEO of SPS, said in a statement about the projects.

The company is also studying additional transmission enhancements for the western edges of Amarillo that will be placed in service after 2013.

The projects, identified as necessary improvements in a 2010 study by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), are part of a larger group of projects SPS plans to complete across its service territory. The company plans to spend more than $2bn upgrading transmission, distribution, and generation facilities in the Texas panhandle, the south plains of Texas, eastern and southeastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma panhandle and portions of southwestern Kansas.

SPS is a subsidiary of Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL)