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Wind power electric lines to cross Gillespie

Following a July 17 selection by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Gillespie County will be one of many counties in the state that will see new power lines in the next four to five years that will carry electricity from wind farms in West Texas and the Panhandle regions to the more metropolitan areas in Central and East Texas.

Known as “Scenario #2” by the PUCT, one major thoroughfare for electricity, a double circuit 345-kilovolt transmission line, will go from McCamey in Schleicher County to an existing substation in Comfort, with lines expected to cross over the southwestern corner of Gillespie County. From there, a single circuit 345-KV line will come up to Fredericksburg, then turn northeast to another sub-station located at Newton in Lampasas County.

The plan calls for a total of 18,456 megawatts of wind power to be carried from West Texas and the Panhandle.

The study was performed by the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), one of the North American grids established in the 1960s, for the PUC.

According to a news release from PUCT, the estimated cost of the project is nearly $5 billion, or approximately $4 per month for each residential customer once construction is completed. The release added that these lines could be in operation within the next four to five years.

Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), which is the primary supplier of wholesale power in Central Texas, through its LCRA Transmission Service Corporation (LCRA TSC), is one of four members of a partnership formed with the idea of building 2,400 miles of new electric transmission lines. Others involved in this project are Electric Transmission Texas, LLC (ETT), Oncor Electric Delivery Company and Sharyland Utilities, LP.

A local group of concerned citizens, Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHCE), was formed as a response to the possible location of wind farms in Gillespie County and the surrounding area. While opposing the construction of those wind farms in the Hill Country, SOSHCE has taken no stance against the construction of the transmission lines from West Texas and the Panhandle.

However, the group’s website (soshillcountry.org) contains the following statement:

“Regarding related transmission line developments, the process has a long way to go, but our expectation is that state regulators and transmission companies will be mindful of the input of Hill Country citizens and act in a responsible manner, such as utilizing existing electric right-of-ways and minimizing visual impacts to the maximum extent possible.”

Frederickburg Standard Online

30 July 2008