LCRA energizes its final CREZ transmission project

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Transmission Service Corporation on Sept. 5 energized the 140-mile Big Hill to Kendall competitive renewable energy zone (CREZ) transmission line, marking the completion of its final CREZ project ahead of schedule and under budget.

The double-circuit, 345-kV line, that originates at McCamey D Station in Schleicher County, Texas and terminates at the Kendall Substation near Comfort, Texas was originally expected to cost $341m, but was completed at a cost of $326.8m, an LCRA spokesperson told TransmissionHub Sept. 12.

Construction of the line, which had been scheduled to be completed by Dec. 30, was finished in mid-August. The transmission project was energized after the associated Big Hill to Kendall substation was completed.

On June 30, LCRA energized the 57-mile, 138-kV Kendall to Miller Creek to Paleface rebuild. Construction began Aug. 29, 2011, and was originally estimated to cost $33.2m. That project was completed at a final cost of $41.8m, according to the most recent quarterly CREZ progress report issued in July by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT).

Company officials say LCRA’s entire slate of projects will come in under budget. The company’s baseline estimate was $689m, while the estimate for LCRA’s CREZ projects contained in the original CREZ Transmission Optimization study was $607.5m. The revised cost estimate in the quarterly report was $594.1m, and the company had spend $584m as of Aug. 31, the spokesperson said.

LCRA is the sixth largest of the 10 companies building transmission lines and facilities under the CREZ program.

The company was originally responsible for building 35 projects, including 12 transmission lines and 23 projects involving the construction of substations and related equipment. Two of the transmission projects, the Gillespie to Newton and the Kendall to Gillespie 345-kV lines, were cancelled prior to the start of construction. Six of the original substation and ancillary projects were also cancelled.

LCRA also completed four substation and ancillary equipment projects during August, the spokesperson said.

The company’s North McCamey substation and autotransformers went online on Aug. 6, while the Bakersfield substation was completed in mid-August and will be energized when the Bakersfield to Big Hill transmission line, which is being constructed by the South Texas Electric Cooperative, is completed. The Big Hill to Kendall substation went online with the energization of the Big Hill to Kendall transmission line.

The Big Hill to Kendall project is a component of a broader CREZ transmission plan that the PUCT approved in 2008 to integrate 18,500 MW of renewable generation and deliver the energy to consumers in the most cost-effective manner. The CREZ program comprises 186 projects, representing 3,593 miles of transmission, as well as associated facilities including substations, terminal upgrades and reactive compensation.

While several of the CREZ projects being constructed by other developers are projected to be energized after their baseline project schedules, all projects are projected to be completed before the program completion deadline in December, according to the report.