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Entergy Texas toughens up coastal power grid

24 September 2009 1,431 views No Comment

Entergy Texas has completed or is about to put into service $100 million in electricity transmission projects, including new lines on the Bolivar Peninsula and in The Woodlands.

The recent improvements include storm-hardened high-voltage transmission towers in coastal communities hit hard by Hurricane Ike, from Beaumont to High Island, Gilchrist, Crystal Beach and Port Bolivar.

All the new coastal power line poles are concrete or steel, with higher ratings for enduring storms than equipment they replaced. Much of the new equipment, for example, is rated for 140-mph wind or a half-inch of ice.

A new substation was built east of The Woodlands, along with a new transmission line with steel poles engineered for wind up to 110 mph.

A substation near Porter also was equipped with a static VAR compensator, a device that will help keep the power grid in that area more stable than in the past and lower the possibility of outages in Montgomery County during times of peak power demand.

The projects, part of a long-term plan to upgrade the area’s transmission system, took into consideration recent hurricanes and an ice storm in 1997 that damaged the distribution system in much of East Texas.

By 2013, Entergy will spend an additional $100  million on transmission expansion in Texas, CEO Joe Domino said during a conference call Tuesday.

CenterPoint Energy, the power distribution system operator for much of the Houston area, did not suffer much damage to its high-voltage transmission system during Hurricane Ike. Rather, most of the damage that knocked out power to 2 million customers was the result of trees falling on neighborhood distribution lines.

The cost of the new transmission projects will eventually be included in Entergy Texas bills, but Domino said how much that will be and when is still unclear.

The Texas Legislature approved a bill this year allowing utilities that are not served by the state’s main grid to recover costs through an extra charge on power bills, but the Public Utility Commission still is working on rules for imposing such riders.

Entergy most recently filed a change in the base rate it charges customers for maintenance and operation of the grid in 2007. The PUC approved an increase of $46  million in late 2008, and it took effect in early 2009.

Entergy Texas serves about 400,000 customers in 27 counties.


Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

By TOM FOWLER Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

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