TPWD recommends ‘Alternative Route 2’ for 345-kV line in Texas

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), in Nov. 19 comments concerning the proposed Abernathy to Wadsworth 345-kV Transmission Line, said that it recommends that the Public Utility Commission of Texas select a route that would minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, such as Alternative Route 2.

As TransmissionHub reported, Sharyland Utilities, L.P., and the City of Lubbock, acting by and through Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L), – referred to as the joint applicants – on Sept. 20 filed with the commission a joint application for a certificate of convenience and necessity for the proposed line in Hale and Lubbock counties in Texas.

The application noted that the proposed project is one of several upcoming projects that are necessary to implement the commission’s final order in another docket, Docket No. 47576, “Application of the City of Lubbock through Lubbock Power & Light for authority to connect a portion of its system with” ERCOT – for the integration of LP&L into the ERCOT system, including the proposed Abernathy to Wadsworth line.

LP&L in September 2017 filed an application in Docket No. 47576 requesting commission authorization to transition a portion of its system and load from the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) to ERCOT because its wholesale power contract with Southwestern Public Service (SPS) will expire May 31, 2021. Therefore, the application added, LP&L needs a new source of wholesale power supply in place by June 1, 2021 in order to serve approximately 470 MW of load.

LP&L determined that moving the affected load to ERCOT was the best option, as doing so will provide for affordable power, assure a diversified energy portfolio, simplify the regulatory environment, and provide an opportunity for retail electric competition in Lubbock, according to the application.

The commission in March approved LP&L’s proposal to transition a large portion of its system from the SPP grid to the ERCOT grid under a transmission interconnection plan developed by ERCOT, known as Option 4ow. The commission determined that, under the terms of its order, including the selection of Option 4ow as the transmission integration solution, the transition is in the public interest, the application added.

In its application, LP&L requested use of Option 4ow, the ERCOT-endorsed plan for LP&L’s requested integration to transition the affected load from SPP to ERCOT. The application also noted that ERCOT preferred Option 4ow for such reasons as that Option 4ow met applicable reliability criteria with a margin for future load growth and local generation retirement.

The commission designated Sharyland and LP&L to provide the transmission facilities included in Option 4ow. The application also noted that under the final order in Docket No. 47576, Sharyland and LP&L are required to coordinate and reach agreement on which entity will build and operate the transmission facilities included in Option 4ow. The application noted that Sharyland and LP&L have agreed that Sharyland would build and that LP&L would own and operate the line proposed in the application.

The proposed Abernathy to Wadsworth project is a single-circuit line on double-circuit-capable structures in Hale and Lubbock counties, the application said, adding that the project would connect Sharyland’s existing Abernathy station, located north of the city of Abernathy in Hale County, to LP&L’s existing Wadsworth station, which Sharyland would expand to include a new 345-kV switchyard, located east of the city of Lubbock in Lubbock County.

The project would be about 30 miles to 50 miles long, depending on the route approved by the commission, and the project would be erected utilizing a combination of monopole and lattice structures within a typical right of way (ROW) averaging 175 feet wide, depending on the location. The application also said that most structures would have a height of less than 160 feet, but that depending on design requirements, a maximum height of 199 feet is possible. The joint applicants selected tangent monopoles as the preferred structure due to their reduced footprint, delivery, and construction reliability, as well as timing benefits during construction.

The project’s study area encompasses about 453 square miles in Hale and Lubbock counties, and includes the municipalities of Abernathy, Idalou, Lubbock, New Deal, Ransom Canyon, and Petersburg, the application added. Most of the study area is in a rural setting with the exception of the areas associated with Abernathy, Idalou, Lubbock, New Deal, Ransom Canyon, and Petersburg, the application noted, adding that land use within the study area is predominantly cropland.

The application noted that the joint applicants’ routing consultant, POWER Engineers developed and evaluated 18 primary alternative routes for the project and that of those routes, the joint applicants selected “Alternative Route 1” as the route that they believe best addresses certain requirements.

In its Nov. 19 comments, the TPWD noted that Alternative Route 1 is the second shortest alternative route at 32.9 miles.

The TPWD said that Alternative Route 2:

  • Is the shortest alternative route, at 32.7 miles
  • Parallels existing transmission ROW, existing compatible ROW, and apparent property lines for about 87% of its total length
  • Is tied with three other routes with the second shortest length across mapped NWI wetlands and playa lakes, at 0.8 miles
  • Has the second shortest length of ROW across known prairie dog colonies, at 1.3 miles

Another recommendation that the TPWD issued is to exclude vegetation clearing activities during the general bird nesting season, March through August, to avoid adverse impacts to that group.

Among other things, the TPWD said that it supports Sharyland surveying the commission-selected route for prairie dog colonies. If prairie dog colonies or burrows are found in the area proposed for disturbance, the TPWD recommends avoiding those areas during construction and installing exclusion fence to keep prairie dogs from entering the project area.

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.