Texas to Spend $4.93 Billion on Transmission Lines for Wind Power

July 23, 2008

Photo of many wind turbines arranged in zigzag lines that recede into the distance.

Texas is already host to a number of large wind plants, including the 736-megawatt Horse Hollow Wind Farm and the 278-megawatt King Mountain Wind Ranch, shown here.
Credit: Todd Spink

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas approved a plan on July 17 to build transmission lines to carry up to 18,456 megawatts (MW) of wind power from West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to metropolitan areas of the state. Back in April, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the state's electrical grid, provided the PUC with four scenarios for transmission system upgrades, with the costs ranging from $2.95 billion to $6.38 billion. The most expensive option would have delivered 24,859 MW of wind power to the cities of Texas, but the PUC chose a less expensive option, Scenario 2, at a cost of $4.93 billion. The PUC estimates that the new lines will be in service within 4 or 5 years, at which point residential customers will be charged about $4 per month to pay off the cost of the transmission lines.

According to ERCOT, the selected plan includes 6,903 MW of wind power capacity that was either in service when ERCOT started preparing its report in September 2007, or had progressed to the point that its developer had signed an agreement to connect the system to the grid. For that existing and near-term future wind power capacity, the new transmission lines will provide greater access to markets, allowing a more efficient and economical use of those wind power resources. In addition, Scenario 2 will allow the development of 11,553 MW of new wind power. That includes 2,393 MW of wind power in the "Panhandle B" zone, which is where a company founded by T. Boone Pickens plans to eventually build the world's largest wind power plant, with a generating capacity of 4,000 MW. The 1,000-MW first phase of that project, the Pampa Wind Project, is expected to go online by early 2011. See the Texas PUC press release (PDF 15 KB); the April press release from ERCOT, which includes a link to the full ERCOT study; and the article from the EERE Network News on the Pampa Wind Project. Download Adobe Reader.