According to a July 12 proposed order sent by Irene Montelongo, director, Docket Management, to the Public Utility Commission of Texas and all parties of record, the commission approves – as modified by an agreement – Lyntegar Electric Cooperative’s December 2017 application involving the new single-circuit Welch 115-kV Transmission Line Project.
As Montelongo noted in a filing accompanying the proposed order, the proceeding was referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings in late February. The docket (Docket No. 47838) was subsequently returned to the commission, which will consider the docket at an Aug. 9 open meeting at the commission’s offices in Austin, Texas. The parties are to file corrections or exceptions to the proposed order by Aug. 1, Montelongo added.
According to the proposed order, Lyntegar’s application seeks to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build the project, composed of two parts, in Gaines and Dawson counties. Lyntegar filed the unopposed agreement that resolves all of the issues between the parties to the proceeding, the proposed order noted.
As part of the project, Lyntegar proposes to disconnect a portion of its load from an Oncor Electric Delivery Company 69-kV transmission line and reconnect it to a Southwestern Public Service (SPS) 115-kV transmission line, resulting in about 5 MW of load transferring from the ERCOT region to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).
The proposed order added that the project consists of two main segments:
- The first segment – the Welch segment – would tap and extend from the existing SPS Diamondback substation to the east and northeast to the proposed new Welch substation near the Town of Welch in Dawson County
- The second segment – the U.S. Silica segment – would consist of a radial transmission line extension from a tap point on the Welch segment, extending south to the proposed Thunderhead substation under construction by Lyntegar to serve U.S. Silica Company
The project, which would be built and operated entirely within SPP, would be built on single-circuit structures with a design voltage rating and operating voltage of 115 kV. The typical structure type would be single-pole steel or concrete structures with typical heights of about 80 feet, although the height could vary depending on terrain, clearance, and span length, the proposed order added.
The project would address reliability and load growth due to increases in oil exploration and production, irrigation water pumping; as well as residential, farming, and ranching demand, the proposed order said. Currently, the Welch 7,200-volt delivery point serves the load in the vicinity of Welch, the proposed order said. The planned Welch substation is proposed to address increases in load and is forecast to peak at 5.78 MW in 2018, and 7.06 MW by 2022, but Lyntegar is contractually limited to 5 MW of capacity in the area from an Oncor distribution line, the proposed order said.
Lyntegar received a request from U.S. Silica to serve an additional 9 MW of load in Lyntegar’s singly certificated service territory with a requested in-service date of August, the proposed order said, noting that U.S. Silica agreed to pay all costs incurred as a result of building the U.S. Silica segment.
By 2023, the proposed order said, the projected total load in the area served by the proposed Welch and Thunderhead substations is in the range of 16.34 MW. Without the project or alternative upgrades, load additions can cause significant deterioration in voltage. Accordingly, the proposed order added, the project would support the reliability and adequacy of the transmission system in the study area.
The project would more than double the available capacity in the area, improve reliability by shifting load from a distribution metering point to a 115-kV transmission tap that is radially fed, and ensuring Lyntegar a means to accommodate load growth in the area with additional substations, the proposed order said.
The project’s agreed route is “route 4” as proposed in Lyntegar’s application, with minor modifications to address certain landowner concerns, including that “link 4” would move about 50 feet west to locate the transmission line farther away from oil wells operated by Oxy USA Inc., Occidental Permian Ltd., Centurion Pipeline LP, Inc., Oxy USA WTP LP (collectively, Oxy). The proposed order added that that modification was requested by, and would be located entirely on property owned by, Oxy.
The agreed route moderates the impact of the project and meets the commission’s routing criteria because it:
- Is the second least expensive route with an estimated cost of about $10.9m
- Is the third shortest route at 19.54 miles
- Affects zero habitable structures
- Has a similar or lower environmental impact to any other route
- Best achieves the expressed community values
The proposed order added that there were no parks or recreational areas identified within 1,000 feet of the agreed route, and that any negative impact on historical and aesthetic values of building the proposed project on the agreed route is similar to that of building the project on the other proposed alternative routes. There are no threatened or endangered plant species listed within the study area, the proposed order said, adding that overall, the agreed route would have similar or less impact on natural resources compared to the other routes.
Among other things, the proposed order calls for Lyntegar to follow certain guidelines published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Avian Power Lines Interaction Committee; to take precautions to avoid disturbing occupied nests; and to take steps to minimize the impact of construction on migratory birds, especially during nesting season.
Lyntegar is to also update the reporting of the project on its monthly construction progress report prior to the start of construction to reflect final estimate cost and schedule, the proposed order said.