SPP gives ITC Great Plains, Westar approval to build 345-kV transmission project in central Kansas

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) on March 21 approved the advancement of the Elm Creek to Summit transmission line project, a 60-mile, 345-kV transmission project including new line and substation upgrades that will improve the reliability of the high-voltage grid in central Kansas.

The project will be constructed jointly by ITC Great Plains, in partnership with Mid-Kansas Electric Company (MKEC), and by Westar Energy (NYSE:WR). ITC/MKEC will build and operate the northern half of the project, while Westar will build and operate the southern half of the line that will connect ITC’s Great Plains substation northwest of Aurora, Kan., to Westar’s Summit substation northeast of Assaria, Kan.

“It’s primarily a reliability project that will improve reliability and efficiency in the region,” a spokesperson for ITC Great Plains told TransmissionHub March 22. Described as one of the company’s smaller projects, it will also reduce congestion across the transmission network.

Westar said the project will also allow for more efficient dispatch of generation throughout Kansas and the region.

“It will help better balance the use of traditional generation,” a Westar spokesperson told TransmissionHub. “It will also help with the development of wind energy and moving wind from the western part of Kansas to the population centers to the east and to the north.”

Later this spring, each company will file route applications for their portions of the line with the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) for review. Rulings on the routes are expected later this year. Right-of-way (ROW) acquisition and engineering design are scheduled for 2014-2015. Construction is expected to take place in 2015 and 2016, and energization expected before the end of 2016.

Westar estimates the cost of its portion of the project at $67m, which will represent more than 50% of total project cost, as Westar is responsible for constructing a substation in addition to transmission.  ITC Great Plains President Kristine Schmidt told TransmissionHub on Feb. 15 that the project has a total estimated cost of $105m. While ITC would not provide an updated cost estimate, its previous figure suggests its portion of the project cost will total approximately $38m.

Because the line will benefit the entire region in terms of improved reliability and increased efficiency, the cost will be recovered from all customers in the Southwest Power Pool region which includes Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Missouri, ITC said it its fact sheet about the project.

Elm Creek to Summit is the third project ITC has developed under its partnership approach with local Kansas utilities.

The 174-mile Spearville-Axtell (KETA) project, which entered service in December 2012, was developed in conjunction with Sunflower Electric Power Corporation and Midwest Energy.

Construction began in November 2012 on the 122-mile V-Plan project in southwestern Kansas, a project being developed in partnership with Sunflower and MKEC. In October 2012, ITC Great Plains announced the ITC Great Plains Expansion Project, a proposal for a package of five high-voltage transmission lines designed to provide a framework for relieving constraints in the underlying system for exporting energy from the western part of SPP to load centers east of the organization’s territory.