Southwest Power Pool plans $309 million in transmission upgrades

Transmission owners in the Southwest Power Pool completed 23 network upgrades totaling an estimated $309.3 million between Nov. 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, including several by utility Southwestern Public Service, SPP said in a recent report.

The Project Tracking Report for 2Q16 listed the numerous projects completed during the three-month period, with 14 of them by SPS, a unit of Xcel Energy. The SPS projects include the 20-mile, 115-kV Battle Axe to Roadrunner project in New Mexico, which TransmissionHub reported as being energized Nov. 12, 2015. That $14 million project included the construction of the new Battle Axe substation.

In the SPP report, the grid operator noted that the estimated cost of projects may change as transmission owners make adjustments to final costs for completed projects.

Other projects completed in the report include substation work and portions of the North Killdeer Loop and the Antelope Valley Station to Neset transmission project, both of which are being developed by Basin Electric Power Cooperative (Basin Electric) in North Dakota.

In mid-December 2015, Basin Electric said it planned to energize the Charlie Creek-to-Judson portion of the Antelope Valley to Neset project, which would mark completion of 140 miles of the 200-mile project. That 345-kV project is eligible for cost sharing within SPP, Basin Electric noted in an April 15 statement. With Basin Electric accounting for about 6 percent of SPP‘s total load, Basin Electric and its members will pay 6 percent of the annual cost of the project based on the load-share ration, with SPP members paying for the remaining 94 percent of the costs, Basin Electric said.

The SPP report also mentioned two network upgrade projects by American Electric Power (AEP) that were withdrawn since the previous Project Tracking Report, with a total estimated cost of $41.5 million. The SPP board approved the withdrawal in January, because both projects “were determined to no longer be needed as a part of the ongoing” 2016 Integrated Transmission System Near-Term Assessment, SPP said in the report.

An SPP spokesperson on May 13 identified the projects as a rebuild of a 69-kV line from Mineola to Grand Saline in northeast Texas, and a rebuild of a 138-kV line from South Shreveport to Wallace Lake in northwest Louisiana. Both projects saw a significant increase in their estimated costs from their initial analysis, which prompted a re-evaluation of them, SPP staff noted in a report to the SPP board.

The estimated cost for the 69-kV rebuild project in Texas increased from $7.4 million to $23 million, while the estimated cost of the 138-kV rebuild in Louisiana increased from $10.2 million to $18.5 million, according to the staff report for the SPP board meeting held in January.

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Tom Tiernan, senior analyst for TransmissionHub has been covering the energy sector for more than 20 years, with previous work at Platts' newsletters and real-time news service. Most recently, he edited and wrote for Megawatt Daily, covering the power industry, demand response markets and smart grid technologies. Previously, he was a reporter at Electric Utility Week, Inside FERC and other publications, covering natural gas and electricity regulation and policy developments from Washington. After receiving a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa, he began his career in the early 1990s at Pasha Publications, writing primarily for Gas Daily.  Tom can be reached at tomt@pennwell.com.

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