Home » News

Oklahoma power line upgrade doesn’t make it to list

10 October 2009 5,182 views No Comment

Oklahoma stands to benefit from more than $300 million worth of projects meant to beef up the region’s transmission grid, but most folks in the know seem to be dwelling on the one that got away: A project that would have upgraded power lines between Woodward and the Panhandle, spurring the development of wind power in the region.

MultimediaPhotoview all photos “This is such an important issue to the state, and the region, that we really need to get it on the list,” said Phil Crissup, director of regional transmission affairs for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.

The $336 million project was among 10 considered as priorities by Southwest Power Pool staff, but it didn’t make the preliminary list.

The project list has not been approved yet by the board of directors for the Southwest Power Pool, a regional organization that manages transmission in Oklahoma, Kansas and parts of Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The five-item list with a $1.3 billion price tag includes three projects in Oklahoma, but not the one many people really wanted.
Lack of lines
The exclusion of that project drew plenty of questions last week when power providers talked to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Crissup said a lack of high voltage lines to the Panhandle could stymie the development of wind farms in the state.

“The real sweet spot of wind generation is in northwest Oklahoma, Oklahoma Panhandle, panhandle of Texas and southwestern Kansas,” he said. “There aren’t many people that live out there.

“We didn’t build the highest voltage lines out there because there really wasn’t a need for them.”

The need is now, with wind development emerging as a priority in the push to identify alternatives to fossil fuels.

“That’s where you come up with this chicken and the egg or which comes first problem,” he said.

Wind developers are not going to invest “$200 (million) or $300 million” if there is no way to move the power to where it is needed, electric companies are in no rush to expand their transmission capabilities to those areas if there isn’t any power being generated there.

OG&E recognized the problem two years ago, when it began building a larger transmission line between northwest Oklahoma and Woodward, Crissup said.

Southwest Power Pool officials have moved more slowly, he said, because they must consider things from a broader perspective.

The projects that made the pool’s draft list are meant to relieve congestion on the region’s power grid and allow access to more kinds of power generation, officials said. The cost of the upgrades is meant to be shared by power providers in the region.

Providers used to share costs only on projects meant to make the region’s power grid more reliable, but that changed with the list of projects announced in April.

“These aren’t projects necessarily that we have to have today to keep the lights on,” communications manager Emily Pennel said. “They’re projects that make economic sense.”

Utilities used to build transmission incrementally to meet specific needs, but that approach doesn’t work as well now. Pennel used highway analogy to illustrate the group’s plans for the future.

“These priority projects are the beginning of a transmission backbone, rather than being built incrementally, kind of like we did with the interstate highways,” she said. “The interstate highways weren’t built to connect a certain store to a certain customer.

“They were built, and then once they were in, everybody received benefits.”
Upgraded reactor
The Oklahoma projects on the preliminary list include an upgraded reactor in Tulsa and improved transmission lines reaching Woodward and Valliant.
The $872,000 Tulsa project would offset limitations in the region’s transmission system, said Steve Fate, system liaison manager for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma.

The power plant addition would benefit the system more than it does PSO, he said.

Crissup said the $183 million Woodward project would upgrade power lines running north to Kansas, where it would meet up with another proposed project in an underserved portion of western Kansas. That project is projected to cost $737 million.

The $131 million Valliant project would tie an isolated area near Texarkana into the region’s power grid, Crissup said.

The other proposal for the region is a $278 million project to upgrade power lines running from Kansas City, Mo., into Nebraska.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...

Comments are closed.