State regulators have approved seven out of 10 so-called “priority” transmission line projects, each part of a $4.93 billion effort to transmit more power generated by wind turbines to be used in other parts of the state.
The Texas Public Utility Commission also expects to review about 24 other projects considered less urgent to the effort to expand power transmission capabilities, said PUC spokesman Terry Hadley, adding that the commission hopes construction will be complete by the end of 2013.
After getting final approvals in March and April on seven prioritized projects, electric delivery service company Oncor has now moved on to the next step: working out deals for easement rights with landowners in the path of the transmission lines.
The “Bluff Creek to Brown” transmission line — a major transmission project for wind energy that terminates just south of Abilene — originally would have sliced through 10 private rural ranches and farms owned by members of the Heart of Texas Landowner’s Coalition. But the PUC ordered a new route after the coalition and others presented evidence to protect their interests. The coalition was represented by the Austin law firm of Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend, P.C.
Heart of Texas Landowner’s Coalition, represented by Lambeth Townsend, an attorney with the firm, contended during PUC proceedings that the originally proposed transmission route did not fit well with the agency’s routing criteria and was contrary to the community values of the affected area. On Friday, the PUC reaffirmed a new route for the 80-mile-plus line.
The PUC is also expected to receive additional applications next week for more wind energy-related transmission projects. In one case, an approximately 30-mile line will be proposed for Tarrant, Parker, Denton and Wise counties. In another, an approximately 70-mile line will be proposed just northwest of Abilene — in Kent, Dickens and Scurry counties.
Ross Jones, president of the Heart of Texas Landowner’s Coalition, praised the administrative law judge and the PUC commissioners for the hard work and patience they demonstrated in the Heart of Texas case. “The administrative law judge and the commissioners really listen,” he said. “They took the time to understand both our coalition’s concerns and the concerns of other affected landowners. We understand these cases are far from easy. That’s why we’re fortunate to have commissioners who work hard to understand the perspectives of everyone involved.”
As part of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) process for wind energy, the PUC will continue routing high voltage transmission lines throughout rural Texas for the remainder of the year.
Besides the lines to be proposed next week near Abilene and Fort Worth, another utility application is expected to be filed in July for wind energy transmission lines through the counties of Swisher, Briscoe, Hall, Floyd, Motley, Hale, Childress, Hardeman, Foard and Cottle. Additional wind energy transmission applications are also expected in more counties later in the summer and throughout the year.