Golden Spread Electric Cooperative is planning to span the divide between the power grid that covers the Texas Panhandle and the grid for the rest of Texas in a move that will help wind power development.
The co-op, a tax-exempt, consumer-owned utility that covers much of the rural areas of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, South Plains and part of the Edwards Plateau area, is teaming up with Sharyland Utilities to connect new and existing natural gas generation units north of Abernathy to the new transmission lines that are also intended to send wind power to downstate cities.
Sharyland filed an application Friday with the Texas Public Utility Commission asking the commission to choose a route for a transmission line that could cost $142 million to $158 million including features like a substation. The line would run from Golden Spread’s TUCO Station in Hale County to a just-finished transmission line where it passes through Floyd County northeast of Floydada. That line plugs into the system of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, serving the rest of the state.
Sharyland recommended it build along a route that is about 55 miles long.
Golden Spread has turbines that can generate 168 megawatts of electricity at its Antelope Station near Abernathy that are connected to the grid serving the Texas Panhandle, the Southwest Power Pool. It will add three turbines to generate about 600 more megawatts. Part of the new generation will serve Golden Spread’s customers in ERCOT.
The rest of the new generation and the existing generation will be able to serve either grid.
The existing units “are quick-start units with the capability to reach full output in five minutes or less and, thus, are perfectly suited to support intermittent wind generation,” said Mark Meyer, senior project manager at Sharyland, in testimony supporting the plan.
The new units will ramp up to full power in about 11 minutes to fill in when the wind slows but demand is up.
Golden Spread currently generates its own power for its Panhandle customers and buys electricity on a wholesale basis from Southwestern Public Service, an Xcel Energy company.
“The sales to Golden Spread end in 2019, with an incremental step down in 2015,” said Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves.
Golden Spread did not respond to a request for comment.
This will not be the first connection to the outside world for a Panhandle utility. SPS has gradually expanded, first into the Southwest Power Pool.
“Our generation and transmission system was built to accommodate the needs of our retail and wholesale customers in this region. We weren’t connected to other grids until the 1970s, and the connection was made east into Oklahoma, closer to our load centers than our western neighbors,” Reeves said. “We also have ties to the west through several direct-current switching stations.”
The substation Sharyland is planning for the connection of the proposed transmission line to its existing line will have the additional benefit of allowing planned wind farms in the area to connect to the line, according to the application.
Completion for the generation and transmission line is scheduled for mid-2016.
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