Garland Power & Light transmission line moves forward in Texas

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The Public Utility Commission of Texas in an Aug. 25 “draft order” adopted – with conditions – a proposal for decision issued by the administrative law judges at the State Office of Administrative Hearings regarding the application by the city of Garland, Texas, d/b/a Garland Power & Light, to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity for a double-circuit 345-kV transmission line in Rusk and Panola counties.

The state office proposal for decision adopted a settled route and recommended a number of conditions.

The PUC also noted that in its order, the term, “Garland project” describes the transmission line and the Rusk and Panola substations. The focus of the proceeding (PUC Docket No. 45624; SOAH Docket No. 473-16-2751) was the conditions that should be imposed regarding Garland’s transmission line.

As noted by the PUC, Garland in February filed an application with the PUC proposing, in conjunction with Rusk Interconnection, an affiliate of Southern Cross Transmission, to design and build the new line connecting the proposed Rusk switching station to be built and owned by Oncor Electric Delivery Co., located about eight miles northeast of Mount Enterprise in Rusk County, Texas, to a proposed switching station – the Panola substation – located on the eastern edge of Panola County, adjacent to the Louisiana border, about nine miles north of Joaquin.

The proposed line would be about 37 miles to 40 miles long. The Panola substation, to be built by Rusk Interconnection and owned by Garland, will be interconnected to a new high-voltage, direct current converter station, to be owned by Southern Cross, adjacent to the Panola substation, but across the border in Louisiana (Southern Cross DC tie).

The PUC also noted that the Southern Cross DC tie will interconnect on the Louisiana side to a 400-mile transmission line (Southern Cross line) that will terminate at an as-yet-to-be-determined end point in the SERC Reliability Corp. transmission system.

Under a transmission line agreement between Garland and Rusk Interconnection, Garland and Rusk Interconnection will cooperate in implementing the Garland project. Garland will be the sole owner of the project when it is placed in service, and Rusk Interconnection will fund the project during construction, but will convey it to Garland before it is placed in service.

The project will be built under interconnection agreements between Garland and Oncor Electric, and Garland and Southern Cross, which were appended to an offer of settlement that was approved by FERC in a final order issued in FERC Docket No. TX11-01-001. The FERC order, the PUC added, requires Garland to provide the interconnection with the Southern Cross DC tie in accordance with the interconnection agreements attached to the offer of settlement. FERC found that the interconnection is in the public interest and determined that it would not cause any ERCOT utility or other utility that is not already a public utility under the Federal Power Act to become a public utility under the Federal Power Act.

The PUC also noted that in June, intervening landowners, Garland and Southern Cross filed an unopposed settlement agreement concerning the transmission line route, supporting selection of route “RP9” by the PUC.

Garland’s estimated cost includes the costs of engineering, acquiring rights of way (ROWs), procurement of materials and supplies, construction labor and transportation, and administration.

The total estimated cost for the Garland project ranges from about $103.8 million to $109.9 million, depending on the route selected, the PUC added, noting that the estimated cost of route “RP9” is about $109 million.

Garland will not seek to recover the costs of developing, building, interconnecting or financing the Garland project or the Panola switching station through transmission service rates, but will own and operate those facilities as open-access transmission facilities subject to PUC rules, NERC standards and ERCOT protocols applicable to such transmission facilities.

RP9, the PUC said, does not cross any recreational or park areas and has one recreational and park area located within 1,000 feet, like most of the other proposed routes. RP9 has 13 habitable structures within 500 feet of the centerline, the PUC said, adding that the route, as well as the routes and route segments proposed in the Garland project reflect reasonable investments of money and effort to limit exposure to electric and magnetic fields.

Noting that route RP9 does not cross any public land implicated by chapter 26 of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code, the PUC said that the route is a feasible and prudent alternative to the use or taking of public land, which is designated and used as a park, recreation area, scientific area, wildlife refuge, or historic site.

In its ordering paragraphs, the PUC said that Garland is to build the Garland project along route RP9.

If Garland, Rusk Interconnection, or any of their contractors encounter any artifacts or other cultural resources during construction of the Garland project, work is to cease immediately in the vicinity of the resource, and the discovery is to be reported to the Texas Historical Commission, the PUC said.

Garland, Rusk Interconnection, and their contractors are to minimize the amount of flora and fauna disturbed during construction of the proposed line, except to the extent necessary to establish appropriate ROW clearance for the line.

The PUC also said that Garland, Rusk Interconnection and their contractors are to conduct surveys to identify pipelines that could be affected by the proposed line, if not already completed, and coordinate with pipeline owners in modeling and analyzing potential hazards because of alternating current interference affecting pipelines being paralleled.

Garland, Rusk Interconnection and their contractors are to also use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species.

The PUC also said that Southern Cross Transmission must provide the PUC with evidence that it has secured the funding to build the Garland project, the Southern Cross DC tie, and all related interconnection facilities before Garland, Southern Cross Transmission and Rusk Interconnection, as well as their affiliates, are permitted to seek condemnation of any landowner’s land in Panola County for the Garland project, so long as the landowner provides access to the land for surveying and design purposes.

Garland and Southern Cross Transmission must immediately disconnect the Garland project from the Southern Cross DC tie if a synchronous connection is made with the transmission line outside of Texas. The PUC also said that Garland and Southern Cross Transmission must disconnect the Garland project from the Southern Cross DC tie if the PUC so orders in order to protect the public interest or the ERCOT system.

If ERCOT requires exports to be backed down during an ERCOT energy emergency alert, then Southern Cross Transmission and Garland are to comply, the PUC said.

In addition, Garland must clearly account for and report any costs associated with the Garland project or the Southern Cross DC tie in any of its wholesale transmission rate requests and is to bear the burden of establishing that none of the costs it seeks to recover for transmission are related to the Garland project or the Southern Cross DC tie.

Southern Cross Transmission or Rusk Interconnection must pay all costs incurred by ERCOT for certain studies, protocol revisions and any other ERCOT activities required by the Garland project or the Southern Cross DC tie.

The PUC also said that any additional costs – including transmission upgrade costs – that may arise because of the Garland project or the Southern Cross DC tie that would otherwise be borne by ERCOT ratepayers are to instead be borne by Southern Cross Transmission or Rusk Interconnection.

Any incremental transmission and ancillary services costs required in order to support exports over the Southern Cross DC tie are to be directly assigned to those exports, and no utility is to recover any costs associated with the Garland project or the Southern Cross DC tie in the utility’s cost of service.

The PUC added that neither Garland nor Southern Cross Transmission is to operate the Garland project or the Southern Cross DC tie in a manner that would impair ERCOT’s reliability.

Among other things, the PUC said that Garland is to not energize the Garland project until ERCOT certifies to the PUC, for instance, that it has studied and determined how best to model the Southern Cross DC tie in its transmission planning cases and made any necessary revisions to its standard and protocols as appropriate.

In a separate Aug. 25 “draft order,” the PUC noted that Southern Cross Transmission or the City of Garland are to not energize the Rusk-to-Panola line until ERCOT completes certain tasks, and the PUC urged ERCOT to complete the tasks expeditiously.

Among the directives to ERCOT, ERCOT is to study and determine how best to model the Southern Cross DC tie in its transmission planning cases, make any necessary revisions to its standard and protocols as appropriate, and certify to the PUC when it has completed those action. Also, ERCOT is to study and determine what transmission upgrades, if any, are necessary to manage congestion resulting from power flows over the Southern Cross DC tie and is to certify to the PUC when it has completed those actions, the PUC said.

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