Kansas regulators grant siting approval for portion of 345-kV transmission project

ITC Great Plains and Mid-Kansas Electric Company (MKEC) received siting approval from the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) Aug. 27 for their portion of the 60-mile Elm Creek-to-Summit 345-kV transmission project planned for north central Kansas, to be built jointly with Westar Energy (NYSE:WR) (Docket Nos. 13-WSEE-677-MIS and 13-WSEE-676-MIS).

“The Elm Creek-to-Summit project will benefit residents and businesses in north central Kansas and the broader region by reducing congestion across the transmission network and improving the reliability and efficiency of the grid,” Kristine Schmidt, president of ITC Great Plains, said in an Aug. 27 statement announcing the approval.

ITC Great Plains/MKEC and Westar filed separate route applications with the KCC on May 3 following the Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) approval of the advancement of the project on March 21.

Westar’s route application is on the KCC’s agenda for consideration at its Aug. 29 open meeting, a Westar spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 28. The spokesperson was unable to provide additional details.

The route applications contained several route alternatives that grew out of a routing study, and which were modified following meetings with potentially affected landowners.

The SPP Board of Directors approved the Elm Creek to Summit line as part of the SPP 2012 Integrated Transmission Planning 10-Year (ITP10) Plan on Jan. 31.

ITC Great Plains, in partnership with MKEC, will build and operate the northern half of the project in Cloud and Ottawa counties and will co-own and operate that section of the line. Westar will build, own and operate the southern half of the line in Ottawa and Saline counties.

When completed, the project will connect ITC’s Great Plains substation northwest of Aurora, Kan., to Westar’s Summit substation northeast of Assaria, Kan.

According to figures contained in the documents, the project’s cost estimate has increased from estimates that were provided to TransmissionHub in March.

ITC Great Plains/MKEC’s portion of the project is estimated at $46.8m, according to the Aug. 28 siting approval. Westar estimated the cost of its portion of the project at $66m in its May 3 siting application, for a total estimated project cost of $112.8m. Westar’s portion will represent more than 50% of total project cost because Westar is responsible for constructing a substation in addition to the transmission line. 

If approved, right-of-way acquisition and engineering design are scheduled for 2013 to 2015. Construction is expected to take place in 2015 and 2016, with the line expected to be energized before the end of 2016.

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 SPP 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.