Xcel Energy transmission project in New Mexico to be in service in December

Xcel Energy said the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC) has approved the company’s 230-kV Potash Junction–Roadrunner transmission line project in Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico, according to TransmissionHub.

The nearly $54 million project will involve 40 miles of new line between the new Roadrunner substation and the existing Potash Junction substation. Roadrunner is under construction about 45 miles southeast of Carlsbad, the company added, noting that Potash Junction is located about 15 miles northeast of Carlsbad.

The new transmission line will be built to a 345-kV capacity, but initially operated at 230-kV. Structures will be two-pole steel H-frames ranging from 80 feet to 140 feet tall.

The projected in-service date is in December, the utility added.

Grading at the Roadrunner substation began last December, and foundation work is scheduled to begin in February, according to a Jan. 5 company newsletter.

According to the newsletter, Xcel Energy is investing more than $630 million in new high-voltage transmission and distribution lines and substations to meet the growing electrical infrastructure needs. The investment is part of the company’s Power for the Plains transmission enhancement program.

“Load growth in southeast New Mexico, including Lea and Eddy counties is projected to climb [700 MW] over the next 10 years,” David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy’s Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS), said in the newsletter.

The company said in its statement that the Potash Junction–Roadrunner project is one of several key capital investments that it is making in its New Mexico-Texas service area, noting that in addition to new transmission lines, the company is building more than 200 miles of distribution feeder lines in Eddy and Lea counties.

“We have experienced high load growth in an area where Xcel Energy has limited power delivery infrastructure,” Hudson said in the statement. “We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in southeastern New Mexico to upgrade infrastructure and to serve the growth in electricity demand.”

The NMPRC in a Dec. 23, 2014, order approved a certification of stipulation issued by Hearing Examiner Frances Sundheim on Dec. 4, 2014.

In that certification, Sundheim noted that SPS, the Utility Division Staff of the NMPRC, the New Mexico Attorney General, Occidental Permian and URENCO USA d/b/a Louisiana Energy Services – collectively, the signatories – entered into the uncontested stipulation, which was filed with the NMPRC on Oct. 22, 2014.

“The hearing examiner has concluded, after a careful review of the evidence presented in this case that the uncontested stipulation is in the public interest, resolves all issues in the case, and recommends that the commission approve the stipulation as proposed in this certification,” Sundheim said.

The stipulation contains the signatories’ agreements to settle all issues in the case, and to recommend that the NMPRC:

·      Issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CCN) authorizing SPS to build and operate the proposed project

·      Approve the location of the proposed line and associated substation facilities, including certain minor adjustments to a portion of the route

·      Approve the initial operation of the line at 230-kV

·      Determine that a 150-foot right-of-way (ROW) width for the 345-kV line is necessary and appropriate

·      Authorize SPS to accrue allowances for funds used during construction (AFUDC) on its funds used for construction of the line and associated facilities

The stipulation also includes the signatories’ acknowledgment that SPS’ application does not request NMPRC approval of ratemaking principles and treatment for the estimated costs for the proposed project, and their agreement that such ratemaking determination should be reserved for a future SPS general rate case.

In describing the project, Sundheim noted that SPS proposes to operate the line at 230-kV specifications until about May 31, 2018, when the Kiowa substation is built and energized, and thereafter – starting on about June 1, 2018 – SPS will operate the line at 345-kV specifications.

Because a 345-kV line can be operated at 230-kV, but not vice versa, and given the short time period before 345-kV level service is required in SPS’ southeastern New Mexico service area, it is more economical to build the proposed project at 345-kV specifications now, rather than having to replace a 230-kV transmission line at a later time when 345-kV level service is needed, Sundheim said.

The line will cross about 29 miles of federal land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 10.3 miles of state-owned land managed by the New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO), and one mile of private land. SPS has obtained ROW permits/easements from the BLM, the NMSLO and the owners of the private land authorizing SPS to build and maintain the proposed line on their respective lands.

Sundheim also noted that the BLM’s finding of no significant impact (FONSI) determined that the optimal route for the proposed project would not have any significant impact, individually or cumulatively, on the quality of the human environment.

Among other things, Sundheim said that the environmental assessment (EA) for the project found, for instance, that there could be a small effect upon sensitive biological species, and the effects on mineral resources are expected to be minimal.

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