There is no cost-effective alternative to building a transmission line through the Hill Country, according to the state’s electrical grid operator.
The proposed line would bring West Texas wind power to the state’s most populous cities and is being fought by Hill Country landowners, who say the clear-cutting and massive lattice towers that would carry the wires would decimate the most beautiful and ecologically sensitive land left in Texas.
The letter filed Monday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid, to the Public Utility Commission of Texas stated “no effective alternatives” to the roughly 130-mile Schleicher County-to-Kendall County line had been identified. The study also found an existing private line is not a viable substitute.
A proposed segment from Kendall to Gillespie, however, could be done less expensively by upgrading the Kendall substation, ERCOT reported.
That small piece of good news was cold comfort for opponents of the entire project.
“This is the last nail in the coffin to place a more sensitive approach to bring this wind energy from west to east,” said Bill Neiman, a farmer and president of the Clear View Alliance, a group formed to fight the transmission lines.
The proposed $367 million line connecting Schleicher, Kendall and Gillespie counties is the most controversial part of a statewide, $5 billion transmission-line expansion mandated by the Legislature to aid the development of wind power.
Congestion is so great on existing lines that turbines sometimes are forced to shut down on the windiest days.
The Legislature in 2007 ordered the lines be built, but when the Lower Colorado River Authority’s transmission arm filed to build lines in its territory, grass-roots groups and government entities across the Hill Country protested.
In August, PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman asked ERCOT to reassess whether the Hill Country line was necessary.
Earlier, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Falls, had asked that the need for a new line between Gillespie and Lampasas counties be re-evaluated, and ERCOT’s analysis reported that upgrading existing lines could be done instead.
ERCOT’s about-face on that segment, along Smitherman’s request, prompted calls to scrap the entire case before the PUC, and that a full re-evaluation be done.
Neiman said the opposition still was recovering from the shock it got Sept. 15, when the PUC chose not to do so.
“Politicians, landowners, even the PUC’s own attorneys recommended dismissing the case,” Neiman said.
Since then, groups in the case have been scrambling to file final testimony, which was due Tuesday. The case will be heard in late October.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding