Texas is poised for an unprecedented boom in the construction of high-voltage transmission lines.

 The Lone Star State is reviewing $9 billion worth of transmission-line projects.
Photo: Courtesy of U.S. DOE
The Lone Star State is reviewing $9 billion worth of transmission-line projects.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is reviewing some $9 billion in transmission projects that would add 7,866 miles of new lines in west Texas, the Texas panhandle and other parts of the state over the next five years, ERCOT says in planning reports filed on Dec. 30 at the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT).

The planned projects include more than 2,000 miles of new 345-kV transmission lines associated with PUCT’s “competitive renewable-energy zones,” or CREZ, transmission plan.

The CREZ plan alone is expected to cost about $5 billion and will enable the delivery of an estimated 18,456 MW of additional wind capacity from remote areas to population centers when the lines are energized in 2012 and 2013.

“By the end of 2010, almost all of the certificates of convenience and necessity for the CREZ transmission-line projects had been submitted to the PUCT for routing approval,” ERCOT says. PUCT spokesman Terry Hadley says the commission already has approved several high-priority projects; the PUCT is expected to act on all the CREZ projects by the end of this year.

Oncor Electric Delivery, Texas’ largest transmission and distribution utility, was selected by PUCT to develop some 850 miles of CREZ lines, says Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar. Roughly $1.4 billion in work will be performed primarily by contractors Oncor had lined up in advance of its selection, she says.

Key members of Oncor’s team include Chapman Construction, a Willbros subsidiary based in McKinney, Texas; Falcon Steel, Haltom City, Texas, which will fabricate about 3,800 transmission towers; and Nucor Steel, the Jewett, Texas, plant of which will provide 54,000 tons of recycled steel for the towers.

Other entities selected by PUCT to construct hundreds of millions of dollars in CREZ transmission lines each are the Lower Colorado River Authority and Electric Transmission Texas, a joint venture of American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.

ERCOT says that, aside from the CREZ lines, the largest projects planned in 2011-15 are three 345-kV lines totaling 368 miles. They include a 165-mile line in ERCOT’s southern-central zone and an 83-mile line in its eastern zone.

ERCOT’s existing transmission system includes 40,530 miles of high-voltage lines, including 9,249 miles of 345-kV lines and 19,565 miles of 138-kV lines. ERCOT says more than 8,000 circuit miles of new lines have been added since 1999 at cost of about $6 billion.