Friday marks the deadline for intervention in the application of a wind energy transmission company to construct a high-voltage transmission line in several counties, including Howard, Mitchell and Coke.
The preferred route for the $187.3 million project would originate in Borden County and extend into Sterling and Coke counties.
Some residents along the proposed route have voiced opposition, citing fears of interference with electronic devices including cell phones, health risks and interference with traffic at an airstrip.
The 345-kilovolt line would divide into designated segments five, six and seven.
Segment five would stretch from southwestern Borden County at the Long Draw switching station, south through Howard County and then head to Glasscock County’s Sand Bluff switching station, perhaps crossing some of Sterling County en route.
Segment six would go from the Sand Bluff switching station in Glasscock County, then across northern Sterling County and then connect to the Divide substation in western Coke County.
Segment seven would take a route from the Sand Bluff switching station in the Bearkat substation in Glasscock County.
The power sent over the three segments would feed into the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas grid, to be sent wherever needed, said Terry Hadley, spokesman for the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
The proposal is designated a subsequent rather than priority project, but all designated priority transmission line projects now have been approved, Hadley said.
The state agency has until May to decide whether to approve the route, Hadley said.
Cost of the project eventually will be recovered from customers through their electricity rates, Hadley said.
The proposed transmission line is aimed at increasing capacity to deliver wind-generated power to the urban areas of the state, Hadley said.
In recent years, wind farms in and adjoining the Abilene area have had to take turns shutting down some of their wind turbines because the power generation potential exceeded the transmission capacity.
“Not as much” production curtailment has been necessary lately, Hadley said, “but with all the anticipated development” of wind projects, more transmission capacity is needed.
In 2008, in response to state law, the PUC selected a transmission scenario to eventually ferry 18,456 megawatts of wind power from West Texas and the Panhandle to metropolitan areas of the state.
The PUC received more than 80 public comments, including requests to intervene, by Tuesday, he said.
In past cases involving transmission lines, people who have intervened have hired attorneys to go before judges to decide the cases.
One letter to the PUC signed by 24 people asserts that the proposed route would pass too close to many homes.
“Although none of the parties signing this letter purports to be an expert, many of the parties have heard reports from others who have had high-power electric transmission lines located in proximity to their residences that the power transmitted through such lines interferes with cell phones, television, household appliances, and equipment and tools operated by electricity to the extent that these items become almost unusable,” the letter states.
Even if these harms don’t materialize, property values may drop significantly due to perceptions, the letter states. Another writer, Jaynell Bodine, worried that the transmission line would interfere with a nearby airstrip.