Texas state regulators, in a March 25 order, approved an application filed by Southwestern Public Service’s (SPS) allowing SPS to build the 115-kV NE Hereford to La Plata Transmission Line Project within Deaf Smith County, Texas.
The order followed a unanimous stipulation that SPS, Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas staff, and all of the intervenors to the docket (Docket No. 45158) submitted to the PUC on Jan. 20.
The parties said that they submitted the stipulation as representing a just and reasonable disposition of the issues in the docket consistent with the public interest. The parties requested approval of the stipulation and entry of a proposed order, which they attached to their filing.
As noted in their filing, SPS last September filed an application to amend a certificate of convenience and necessity for the proposed line in Deaf Smith County. SPS requested approval to build and operate a 115-kV line, which the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) identified as needed for reliability to address the overload issues at the existing NE Hereford substation 115/69-kV transformers, Circuit #1 or Circuit #2, which could occur during a single contingency event outage of either transformer.
The project will involve building a new line, which would originate at the NE Hereford substation, located 3.5 miles northeast of Hereford, Texas, in Deaf Smith County, and terminate at the new La Plata substation, a half mile west of the existing Centre Street substation, south of County Road 7, near the western portion of the City of Hereford.
As noted in the March 25 order, in addition to the new line, the existing NE Hereford substation will be reconfigured from a four breaker ring bus configuration to a breaker and a half configuration and a third bay will be added within the existing site.
The La Plata substation is being built to replace the Centre Street substation, which is currently fed from the NE Hereford substation, but cannot accommodate the proposed 115-kV line due to real estate constraints. The La Plata substation will be built with provisions for expansion to an ultimate arrangement of a three ring 115-kV breaker and a half, with four 115-kV lines and a second distribution transformer.
“SPS demonstrated a reasonable need for the proposed project in order to continue to provide adequate and reliable service,” the PUC said. “The record demonstrates that the need for the proposed project was not disputed by the parties.”
The PUC also said that consistent with the stipulation, the approved route for the line is Modified Route 6, which is 7.51 miles long and comprised of Segments A, B, F, F*, G*, M, P and Q.
As noted in the order, Modified Route 6 is tied for the second-lowest-cost of the routes proposed by SPS, with a total estimated cost of about $11.8m, comprised of about $4.9m in estimated transmission facility, and about $6.9m in estimated substation costs. Modified Route 6 parallels existing transmission lines and other compatible right of way (ROW) for about .60 mile, or 8% of its total length. The PUC also noted that Modified Route 6 parallels apparent property lines for about 6.79 miles, or 90% of its total length. Modified Route 6 parallels existing transmission line ROW, other compatible ROW, and apparent property lines for a total of 7.37 miles, or 98% of its length.
The proposed line will have no significant impact on parks and recreational areas, the PUC said, adding that the aesthetic impacts of the proposed line have been considered and minimized to the extent reasonable. The PUC also said that the proposed line will have no significant impact on local wildlife, adding that no significant impacts to unique, sensitive or protected wildlife habitats are anticipated.
The PUC said that in the event that SPS or its contractors encounter any artifacts or other cultural resources during project construction, work is to cease immediately in the vicinity of the resource and the discovery is to be reported to the Texas Historical Commission.
SPS is to implement erosion control measures as appropriate and return each affected landowner’s property to its original contours and grades, unless otherwise agreed to by the landowner or landowners’ representatives.
The PUC also said that SPS is to exercise extreme care to avoid affecting non-targeted vegetation or animal life when using chemical herbicides to control vegetation within the ROW, and is to ensure that such herbicide use complies with certain rules and guidelines.
In addition, the company is to minimize the amount of flora and fauna disturbed during construction of the transmission line, except to the extent necessary to establish appropriate ROW clearance for the line.
The PUC further stated that SPS is to use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species.
Among other things, the PUC said that SPS is to update the reporting of the project on its monthly construction progress report before the start of construction to reflect the final estimated cost and schedule.
SPS is a subsidiary of Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL).