Texas state regulators, in a July 3 proposed order, approved El Paso Electric’s (EPE) application to amend a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for a 115-kV transmission line that will connect the proposed Montana power station to the company’s Montwood substation in El Paso County.
The company filed the application last September, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) said, adding that a unanimous stipulation and settlement agreement was executed, resolving all of the issues in the docket.
The proposed project involves building a new 115-kV line to interconnect the proposed new Montana power station to the EPE transmission system at the Montwood substation, according to TransmissionHub.
EPE filed four alternative routing options for the proposed line, Routes 1, 2, 3 and 4, which ranged from about 5.3 miles to 7.3 miles long. The company identified Route 3 as the route that best addressed certain state requirements.
Parties in the proceeding support PUCT approval of construction of the proposed line along the “settlement route,” which uses Route 3 from the application, except that the settlement route will include the “Ledbetter Modification.”
That modification affects Route Link E starting at the northeast corner of Pebble Hills Blvd., and Tim Floyd Rd. From that point going south, the line would cross due south across Pebble Hills Blvd., and travel down the east side of Tim Floyd Rd., until its intersection with platted county road Ledbetter Dr.
The line would cross Ledbetter Dr., and then turn and travel southeast to follow on the southwest side of Ledbetter Dr., within the county road right-of-way (ROW). The PUCT also said that the line would continue in that direction until it intersects the existing Montwood to Coyote transmission corridor. From that point, the line would turn west and travel in the existing transmission line corridor along Link K located on the south side of Montwood Dr., to the existing Montwood substation.
EPE proposed to build the proposed line on steel monopole structures except that the north-south portion of Route Link J will be built on steel H-frame structures. The single steel monopole structures will range from about 90 feet to 110.5 feet above the ground, while the steel H-frame structures will range from 97 feet to 110.5 feet above the ground. The ROW width will vary from 15 feet to 150 feet.
The PUCT also said that the total estimated cost for construction under the settlement route is about $5.9 million for the transmission line facilities and about $1.9m for the substation facilities. The estimated cost of the proposed transmission line and substation facilities of about $7.8 million is reasonable when compared to alternative routes for the project, the commission said. The proposed transmission facilities will be funded in part by existing cash balances, cash from operations or through existing credit facilities.
The company plans to energize the proposed line in November 2015.
Discussing the need for the proposed line, the PUCT noted that EPE proposes to build the new line to interconnect the future Montana power station to the existing transmission system under a large generator interconnection agreement signed by EPE Generation and EPE Transmission. Those new transmission facilities are required to interconnect the generating facility to the transmission system, such that the new resource can deliver its output to the EPE native load. In particular, the transmission line proposed in the application is needed to support Units 3 and 4 of the Montana power station under N-1 conditions.
Approval of the application is conditioned upon the PUCT approving EPE’s application in Docket No. 41763 for a CCN amendment for Montana power station Units 3 and 4. The PUCT also said that EPE is not to begin construction of the transmission line until after the PUCT approves EPE’s application to build those units.
EPE has shown a reasonable need for the proposed project, the PUCT added, noting that since the proposed transmission project is in response to a generation interconnection request, employing distribution facilities, distributed generation and/or energy efficiency will not meet the specified need. “EPE’s proposed project is the most reasonable option to address the need,” the PUCT said.
There are 93 habitable structures within 300 feet of the proposed centerline of the settlement route, which is the least of the various route options, the PUCT said, adding that the settlement route proposes to make use of the existing compatible ROW.
The PUCT also said that the proposed project will have minimal to no impact on airport activities, there are no pastures or cropland irrigated by traveling irrigation systems that are traversed by the settlement route, and the proposed line will have minimal adverse impacts on community values.
During construction, some temporary impacts to aesthetics may occur, but after construction, the ROW would be revegetated, construction equipment and material used or removed and debris and trash disposed.
The PUCT also said that the proposed line will not have a long-term impact on soils, adding that delineated wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas were not identified along the proposed project and so no impacts are expected to those areas. Furthermore, no significant impacts to unique, sensitive or protected wildlife habitats are anticipated.
Among other things, the PUCT said that in addition to obtaining a CCN, EPE may need additional permits and may be required to make additional notifications in order to build the project. Also, EPE is to use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species and to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as with the Endangered Species Act. Additionally, in the event EPE or its contractors encounter any artifacts or other cultural resources during project construction, work is to cease immediately in the vicinity of the resource and the discover is to be reported to the Texas Historical Commission.