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Utility files for transmission line

In West Texas, 70 miles is nothing, and that’s how close a newly proposed transmission line comes to the planned Panhandle Loop.

Lone Star Transmission, a subsidiary of FPL Energy, filed an application Thursday to build a line from the area south of Big Spring and Abilene to the Dallas area.

That puts its west edge close to the proposed Panhandle Loop. However, the plan is to build a line that can stand alone or compliment the Loop.

“It’s too early to know what will happen, so let’s focus on this one and make it clear it can be integrated with others,” said Jolly Hayden, vice president of transmission development for FPLE and president of Lone Star Transmission.

Until the Public Utilities Commission identifies the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones where wind energy can be best developed, there are a lot of questions about exactly where new wind farms will go up and what transmission system will be needed.

That CREZ decision is supposed to happen before the end of July. Representatives for the Panhandle Loop could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Lone Star line, dubbed the “DFW Express,” would be up to 200 miles long and cost up to $655 million. Construction could be completed in three years after approval, according to information from the company.

It would carry DC current instead of the typical AC current that is on existing transmission lines. That would free up transmission capabilities on clogged lines between West Texas and the population centers to the east.

“The beautiful thing about it is it acts as an arterial bypass,” Hayden said.

While Lone Star would operate the line, it would be provide access to other wind generating companies in addition to its parent FPLE. The capacity would be 2,000 megawatts. A megawatt can power about 250 average homes daily.

The $1.5 billion Panhandle Loop proposed by Airtricity, Babcock & Brown Renewable Holdings, Celanese, Occidental Energy Ventures, and Sharyland Utilities runs closest to Lone Star’s line and would also send energy to population centers like Dallas.

It would carry 8,000 megawatts of electricity generated by wind, coal and natural gas. But Xcel Energy and the Southwest Power Pool also have a proposal to build lines that would take 4,500 megawatts of wind power from the Panhandle to the SPP, ultimately sending 2,700 of that to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

SPP oversees electric delivery and generation in the Panhandle and states to the northeast. ERCOT covers the rest of Texas.

The SPP lines would be farther north and cost Southwestern Public Service about $96 million to build its share.

By Kevin Welch


1 June 2007