The Public Utility Commission of Texas, in a May 28 final order, approved the Bakersfield to Solstice 345-kV Transmission Line in Pecos County, Texas, proposed by LCRA Transmission Services Corporation and AEP Texas, Inc.
Specifically, the commission said that it amends LCRA’s certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) number 30110 to include the construction and operation of the transmission facilities requested along links A, C, D, E, and F, as well as 2,490 feet of the eastern portion of link M up to the tower structure to be owned by AEP Texas and labeled as the Bakersfield-Solstice terminus that will establish a new interconnection between LCRA and AEP Texas. The commission also said that it amends AEP Texas’ CCN number 30170 to include the construction and operation of the transmission facilities requested along links R, W, X, and Y, as well as the western portion of link M up to and including the Bakersfield-Soltice terminus tower structure.
As noted in the final order, LCRA and AEP Texas last November filed a joint application to amend their CCNs for authority to build, own, and operate the double-circuit transmission line in Pecos County. The line will connect LCRA’s Bakersfield substation, as expanded, and AEP Texas’ Solstice switching substation, as expanded.
The commission added that LCRA, which owns and operates the Bakersfield substation, will own the eastern half of the line, while AEP Texas, which owns and operates the Solstice switching substation, will own the western half of the line.
LCRA will expand the Bakersfield substation to accommodate the new line, the commission said, adding that AEP Texas will expand the Solstice switching station with the construction of a new 345-kV substation yard adjacent to the existing 138-kV Solstice switching substation as the western termination of the Bakersfield-to-Solstice transmission line.
The transmission facilities are needed to support load growth in the Far West Texas area; address reliability violations under ERCOT reliability criteria and NERC reliability standards; as well as provide the infrastructure necessary to facilitate future transmission system expansion to continue to support that load growth. The commission added that the Far West Texas area is experiencing rapidly growing load due primarily to oil and natural gas production, processing, and transportation, as well as associated economic expansion.
Oncor Electric Delivery Company and AEP Texas in April 2016 submitted a suite of projects known as the Far West Texas Project for review by ERCOT’s Regional Planning Group. The commission added that the ERCOT Board of Directors in June 2017 endorsed construction of, among other things, a new 345-kV transmission line extending from Bakersfield to Solstice, to be built by LCRA and AEP Texas on double-circuit-capable, 345-kV structures, with one 345-kV circuit initially installed, as well as expansion of the Solstice substation to include the installation of a 345-kV ring-bus arrangement with two 600 megavolt-ampere, 345/138-kV autotransformers.
Oncor in February 2018 submitted a suite of projects known as the Far West Texas Project 2 to the ERCOT Regional Planning Group. In June 2018, the ERCOT board endorsed construction of, among other things, a variation of the proposed Far West Texas Project 2 to include the Sand Lake-to-Solstice double-circuit, 345-kV line, expansion of the Sand Lake switch, and a second circuit on the Bakersfield-to-Solstice line.
The commission added that as approved by ERCOT, the Far West Texas Project 2 includes these components:
- Expansion of the Sand Lake switching substation to install two new 600 megavolt-ampere, 345/138-kV autotransformers
- Construction of an approximately 40-mile, 345-kV transmission line on double-circuit structures, with two circuits in place between Sand Lake and Solstice
- Installation of a second 345-kV circuit on the Bakersfield-to-Solstice line
As TransmissionHub reported, a “complete unanimous stipulation” filed with the commission on Feb. 20 calls for the approval of “Route 24” for the routing of the project, which is not changed or modified from the route as filed in the application filed jointly last November. That filing also noted that the unanimous stipulation on routing of the project within Pecos County – referred to as the route stipulation – was entered into as of Feb. 15 by LCRA; AEP Texas; Oncor; commission staff; and all of the intervenors who remain parties to the proceeding and are affected by one or more route alternatives for the Bakersfield to Solstice 345-kV transmission line project that is proposed to be built by LCRA and AEP Texas.
As noted in the final order, Route 24 is 71.1 miles long and has an estimated cost of $156m. The estimated cost of the Bakersfield substation expansion is $6.5m, while the estimated cost of the required expansion of the Solstice switching station is $38.5m.
Route 24 is adjacent and parallel to existing transmission lines, other existing rights of way (ROWs), and apparent property lines for 86% of its length, the commission added, noting that that route does not traverse any pasture or cropland irrigated by traveling irrigation systems. The line will not significantly disturb the use or enjoyment of parks or recreational areas, the commission said. Furthermore, LCRA and AEP Texas do not anticipate significant burdens on wetland resources, ecological resources, endangered and threatened species, or land use as a result of construction of the line.
Among other things, the commission said that LCRA and AEP Texas must consult with pipeline owners or operators in the vicinity of the approved route regarding the pipeline owners’ or operators’ assessment of the need to install measures to mitigate the effects of alternating current interference on existing natural gas pipelines that are paralleled by the transmission facilities.