Xcel energizes OK-Texas power line

The first of two major electric transmission connections from Xcel Energy’s Texas-New Mexico service area to Oklahoma is now in service, a key step toward boosting area grid flexibility and reliability, and opening wind energy export capacity.

The Oklahoma-Texas Panhandle region is the country’s hottest wind play at the moment, while developers are eying several large projects in eastern New Mexico.

The completed 345kV double-circuit transmission line runs from a facility in the Texas Panhandle owned by Southwestern Public Service, an electric utility subsidiary of Xcel, across the border to Woodward in northwestern Oklahoma.

The $64m project will carried out in partnership with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company (OG&E), the state’s largest electric utility.

A second joint SPS-OG&E connection project is a 345kV transmission line from Abernathy, Texas, north of Lubbock to Woodward, the largest city in Oklahoma’s major wind energy region. Xcel did not say when this would be completed.

The two large connection projects are among 21 critical improvements grouped in the “Power for the Plains” enhancement project, which was launched after a 2010 Southwest Power Pool (SPP) study.

SPP is the regional transmission organization overseeing grid reliability in portions of eight south-central states, including the Texas Panhandle-South Plains region and eastern New Mexico. Of these 21 projects, nine have been completed.

“Much in the same way the interstate highways opened up new markets and brought more choices to Americans, these lines will provide more options for purchasing power that is often less expensive than power sources closer to home,” says David Hudson, chief executive of  Southwestern Public Service.

With new connections the utility can idle less efficient plants in the off-peak season and import greater supplies of less expensive power from neighboring power plants, Hudson says. And in the summer peak season, the company will have access to more power to meet peak demand even when all the area generating resources are being used.

The Power for the Plains project is now expanding in scope as dozens of new projects are being announced for eastern New Mexico and the southwestern section of Xcel Energy’s Texas service area.

The energy and mining sectors are expanding rapidly in these areas, driving the need for dozens of additional power line and substation projects that were identified by SPP.

Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners has proposed exporting up to 3.5GW of wind energy from the region across Oklahoma and Arkansas to southeastern states.