HARLINGEN – Wind can be harnessed, but the power it generates still has to be moved.
AEP Texas and E.ON Climate and Renewables this month submitted a proposal to the Public Utility Commission of Texas to build between 22 and 32 miles of new power transmission lines in Cameron and Willacy counties.
The companies say the double-circuit 345-kilovolt lines are needed to bring electricity produced by E.ON’s 116-turbine Magic Valley Wind Farm II into the Texas power grid, known as ERCOT. The new wind farm, which is expected to generate 230 megawatts of power, is not yet operational.
If approved by the PUC, construction on the transmission lines would begin in mid-2019 and finish in mid-2020.
The towers to be erected are called BOLD towers, and look like a single big tube with crossbow limbs drooping off the top on both sides. Transmission lines are attached below the single crosstree of the towers.
“The design is very compact, as far as width-wise, and it’s shorter than your typical, your traditional structures,” Randy Roper, regulatory case manager for AEP Texas, said yesterday.
Roper said the advantage of BOLD towers is they are 116 to 130 feet tall, which is 30 to 40 feet shorter than older towers like lattice towers. The new towers are popular in agricultural areas, since the smaller size makes it easier for crop dusters to fly low to spray fields.
Roper said AEP Texas crews are familiar with the construction and engineering issues facing transmission tower construction in South Texas and he doesn’t foresee any engineering difficulties.
“The area here will require possibly some engineering challenges from the standpoint of working around the wind turbines and several crossings of irrigation canals,” Roper said.
“It also has to be designed for hurricane-force winds, which requires a little more foundation work, but it’s not something we haven’t done before,” Roper added. “It’s not really a challenge because this is the type environment we’re used to working in.”
AEP Texas officials said 600 landowners who could potentially be impacted by the transmission towers and lines have been contacted about the proposal.
“We have to notify anybody within 500 feet on each side,” Roper said. “It may not cross anybody’s property but they had to be notified.”
Property owners or other persons in the area of the proposed transmission lines may file as an intervenor against the project by contacting the Texas PUC. The deadline to intervene is March 9.
Two new substations will be required for the new transmission lines.
The Ladekidde Substation is proposed for a site north of San Perlita, and the Bonilla Substation would be located along I-69E/U.S. 77 about halfway between Combes and Sebastian.
Larry Jones, a spokesman for AEP Texas, said of the PUC: “We anticipate action or a decision probably in January of next year, possibly sooner or possibly a little later, but that’s what we envision.”
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