SPS, New Mexico regulatory staff file stipulation in relation to wind project

Southwestern Public Service (SPS) and the Utility Division Staff of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission – collectively referred to as the signatories – have entered into a joint stipulation to address staff’s concerns with Sagamore Wind Energy LLC’s November 2017 application for location approval and right of way (ROW) width determination for the Sagamore Wind Energy facility.

Sagamore’s application requested that the commission grant approval to locate up to 522 MW nameplate capacity of wind energy generation facilities encompassing about 150,000 acres, and up to 20 miles of 345-kV transmission facilities in Roosevelt County, as well as an ROW width determination for a 180-foot ROW for the proposed transmission line.

The Sagamore Project would be primarily located on private land, may include about 18,000 acres of state trust land, and would not include any federal land, the stipulation added.

The current plans are that SPS would build, own, and operate the Sagamore Project, and that it would be operational by Dec. 31, 2020, in order to take advantage of the full federal production tax credit (PTC), according to the stipulation.

According to the Nov. 6, 2017, direct testimony filed with the commission on behalf of Sagamore of Krista Mann, director, Renewable Development, of Invenergy LLC, the Sagamore Project, which is located near SPS’ existing Eddy-Tolk 345-kV transmission line and the Crossroads substation, is expected to need a generation tie transmission line (Gen Tie) of up to 20 miles to connect the project to the existing transmission infrastructure and allow electricity to flow into the grid.

Electricity generated by the wind turbines would be gathered via buried electrical collection system lines that would be charged at 34.5 kV, Mann said, adding that the collection system circuits would be gathered at one or possibly two new substations where the voltage would be stepped up from 34.5 kV to 345 kV via large power transformers. If there are two step-up substations, then they would be connected to each other via a Gen Tie line.

Mann also said that a generation tie transmission line would connect the single step-up substation – if one is built – or one of the step-up substations – if two are built – to the existing SPS Crossroads substation or a similar substation connected to the Eddy-Told transmission line.

The Gen Tie would be an overhead line operated at 345 kV, Mann said, adding that the supporting structures would be either a monopole or double-pole, wood or steel construction, and un-guyed – except at turns. There would also be three phases of conductors plus one or two ground lines, potentially a communication line, insulators, cross-arms, and other minor equipment typically associated with electrical transmission lines.

The Gen Tie would require an ROW width of about 180 feet across primarily private land for which Invenergy has signed or will sign land agreements with all private landowners, Mann said.

Sagamore is a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Invenergy Wind Energy North America LLC, and both of those entities are subsidiaries of Invenergy LLC, as noted in Mann’s testimony.

The stipulation noted that Sagamore is to require that certain applicable protection measures be incorporated in relevant construction contracts related to the project in New Mexico.

The current plan is for SPS to acquire Sagamore if a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) is approved in a separate commission case (Case No. 17-00044-UT). The stipulation added that if the CCN is approved and SPS acquires Sagamore, then SPS would acquire all rights and obligations under the stipulation, and by agreeing to the stipulation, SPS acknowledges that it would assume the rights and obligations of Sagamore under the stipulation.

Among other things, the stipulation noted that Sagamore’s contractor is to implement a hazard communication program for any onsite hazardous materials to include training, labeling, and Material Safety Data Sheets.

Also, Sagamore is to comply with Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act and obtain all necessary permits.

The stipulation further noted that construction activities in areas within half mile of non-participating residential areas are to be conducted during daylight hours, generally between 6 a.m., and 8 p.m., unless necessary due to weather, safety, and/or schedule constraints.

In addition, to reduce fuel burn and air pollutant emissions due to excessive idling, Sagamore is to require contractors and subcontractors to implement an idle-timing monitoring and idle-reduction program that may include written policies, operator training, supervisory reminders for personnel, telematics, idle limiters, or shutdown devices.

The stipulation also said that the placement of wind turbines is to adhere to certain environmental setback requirements for saline lakes, wetlands, and playas. All wetlands and playas are to be avoided or spanned by transmission lines to prevent direct impacts to the extent practicable. In addition, the stipulation said that no wind turbines are to be located in areas mapped as a 100-year floodplain by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Transmission lines are to be designed to minimize the risk of avian collision or electrocution of birds as per the guidelines set forth in a manual published by the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee and Edison Electric Institute.

The stipulation also said that to protect the lesser prairie chicken population, Sagamore is to avoid areas identified as Critical Habitat Assessment Tool 1 and implement a minimum 1.25-mile radius wind turbine and vertical transmission structure setback distance from known active prairie chicken leks documented in the five years prior to the date of the stipulation, in the databased owned by NWDGF and maintained by Natural Heritage New Mexico, and as provided to Sagamore in 2017.

The signatories acknowledge and agree that a 180-foot ROW width is necessary for the project, the stipulation added.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.