Update: Kansas regulators grant siting approval for balance of 345-kV transmission project

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) on Aug. 29 granted Westar Energy (NYSE:WR) siting approval for its portion of the 60-mile Elm Creek-to-Summit 345-kV transmission project planned for north central Kansas, to be built jointly with ITC Great Plains and Mid-Kansas Electric Company (MKEC) (Docket Nos. 13-WSEE-677-MIS and 13-WSEE-676-MIS).

“The proposed line is expected to significantly improve reliability in the region facilitating the import and export of power to and from north central Kansas,” the KCC said in its siting approval, noting that the additional transmission capacity will support economic growth in the region, “benefiting Westar’s customers and other customers in Kansas.”

The line will also provide necessary additional capacity to move power from wind farms located in remote areas to load centers and help facilitate the development of wind generation in the state of Kansas, the ICC added.

Westar and ITC Great Plains/MKEC 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. The KCC approved ITC Great Plains/MKEC’s application on Aug. 27. Westar will construct approximately 29 miles of the 60-mile line while ITC Great Plains/MKEC will build the balance.

Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which approved the Elm Creek to Summit line as part of the SPP 2012 Integrated Transmission Planning 10-Year (ITP10) Plan on Jan. 31, designated the project as a base plan project needed to address voltage collapse in the Concordia area under contingency conditions, according to the siting approval.

Westar’s route approval contained 13 route alternatives that grew out of a routing study and were modified following meetings with potentially affected landowners. Company officials characterized such modifications as standard practice.

“We work closely with landowners, communities and governmental agencies in routing transmission projects,” Kelly Harrison, Westar’s vice president for transmission said in a statement following the KCC’s siting approval.

Seven of those route alternatives were approved by the KCC while six were rejected as unreasonable.

Westar will build, own and operate the southern portion of the line in Ottawa and Saline counties as well as the Summit substation. ITC Great Plains/MKEC will build and operate the northern part of the project in Cloud and Ottawa counties and will co-own and operate that section of the line.

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

Westar estimates the cost of its portion of the project at $66m, which includes the cost of constructing the Summit substation. ITC Great Plains/MKEC’s portion of the project is estimated at $46.8m, according to the Aug. 27 approval of ITC/MKEC’s siting application, for a total estimated project cost of $112.8m.

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 scheduled to be energized before the end of 2016. The entities will be coordinating their efforts and will bring their portions of the project online simultaneously, a Westar spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 30.

Because the line will benefit the entire region in terms of improved reliability and increased efficiency, 100% of the cost will be allocated regionally and recovered from all customers in the SPP region, which includes Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Missouri, according to the Aug. 29 siting approval.