The Public Utility Commission of Texas, in a Sept. 17 order, adopted – with modifications – a proposal for decision issued by a State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) administrative law judge (ALJ) in relation to Oncor Electric Delivery Company’s proposed 345-kV project.
As noted in the order, Oncor in March filed an application to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for a 345-kV transmission line in Crane, Ector, Loving, Reeves, Ward, and Winkler counties. The facilities consist of a new double-circuit-capable transmission line on 345-kV, double-circuit, lattice-steel tower structures. The commission added that both circuits will terminate at Oncor’s Riverton switching station under construction in Reeves County, with one circuit extending from Oncor’s existing Odessa Extra High Voltage (EHV) switching station, located in Ector County, (Odessa EHV Switching Station to Riverton Switching Station line), and the other circuit extending from Oncor’s existing Moss switching station, located in Ector County (Moss Switching Station to Riverton Switching Station line).
The commission noted that the proposed facilities are needed to address reliability violations and to serve rapid load growth primarily driven by increased oil- and gas-related activity in and around the proposed transmission facilities area. Currently, the area is served by Oncor’s Wink to Culberson and Yucca Drive to Culberson 138-kV transmission lines. The commission added that the aggregate historical load on those lines, referred to as the Culberson Loop, increased from 29 MW in 2012 to nearly 250 MW in 2017. The application estimated that aggregate load on the Culberson Loop will exceed 600 MW in 2018; 875 MW in 2019; 1,100 MW in 2020; and 1,300 MW in 2021.
The commission also said that the ERCOT Board of Directors endorsed both circuits for the proposed transmission facilities.
To assist Oncor in its route selection process, the company retained Halff Associates, Inc., to prepare a routing analysis, the commission said, adding that the 116-mile Route 1180 is the best alternative when all routing factors are evaluated. All parties that attended a hearing on the merits either support or are willing to accept Route 1180, though some parties conditioned their position on acceptance of proposed modifications.
Route 1180 is estimated to cost about $199.7m, excluding station costs, the commission added, noting that about $23.8m in costs required for the facilities at the Riverton, Moss, and Odessa EHV switching stations are also included in the proposed transmission facilities. Including those costs, Route 1180 is estimated to cost about $223.6m.
The commission also said that Route 1180 parallels existing compatible right of way (ROW) for 69 miles.
Route 1180 does not significantly impact or adversely affect community values, recreational and park areas, historical and aesthetic values, or the environmental integrity of the area traversed by that route, the commission noted.
Of the approximately 116 miles crossed by Route 1180, an estimated 2.6 miles will cross areas designated as having a “very low” probability of suitable habitat of endangered or threatened species, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The commission added that Oncor will work with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to the extent threatened or endangered species’ habitats are identified during field surveys.
Among other things, the commission said that it amends Oncor’s CCN to include the construction and operation of the Riverton switching station and the new double-circuit, 345-kV transmission line along links A, MA, A2, B1, B2, E1, F1, G5, G6, J1, L1, L2, N1, N2, R2, T21, T22, U, and Z2, with modifications to links E1 and J1 as requested by certain intervenors.
The commission said that it limits the authority granted by the order to a period of seven years from the date the order is signed, unless the line is commercially energized before that time.
Also, Oncor must conduct surveys, if not already completed, to identify metallic pipelines that could be affected by the line and cooperate with pipeline owners in modeling and analyzing potential hazards because of alternating-current interference affecting metallic pipelines being paralleled, the commission said.