LCRA Transmission Services Corporation (TSC) recently provided new information to the Public Utility Commission on the potential use of concrete poles in its Gillespie-to-Newton Transmission Line Project, which may be located in portions of Gillespie, Llano, San Saba, Burnet, and Lampasas Counties.
Since filing PUC Docket No. 37448 direct testimony and exhibits in October, LCRA TSC’s concrete pole manufacturer provided information about budgetary, schedule and manufacturing feasibility. As a result, LCRA TSC re-examined the cost projections for concrete poles and compared them with other previously considered structure types.
"LCRA TSC continually monitors and evaluates changes in the market that can impact the cost of construction materials," said Stuart Nelson, LCRA Transmission Asset Development manager. "Providing this new information about concrete poles to the PUC illustrates what we have been telling folks about the process of selecting transmission line structures – at this point in time we still recommend using lattice towers in our project because they still cost less, but of course we will build whatever the PUC tells us to build." The new data shows lattice towers are still less expensive to construct than concrete poles or other single-pole structures.
The Jan. 6 filing can be viewed on PUC’s Web site Interchange under Docket No. 37448 titled LCRA TSC’s Third Errata. It states that interested persons have expressed the desire to have information about cost and feasibility with regard to the use of concrete poles. The filing provides the latest information known to LCRA TSC on the subject in an effort to maintain a high degree of transparency.
The PUC transmission line criteria are the driving factors behind LCRA TSC’s transmission line route recommendations, including transmission structures. Nelson said that compared to lattice towers, concrete poles can only span up to about 900 feet apart; whereas lattice towers can be placed as far as 1,200 to 1,500 feet apart, reducing the number of lattice towers compared to concrete poles.
"Costs are important PUC criteria because the costs of projects are ultimately shared and paid for by the individual ratepayer," Nelson said. "We want to be good stewards of the public’s dollars and make our recommendations with that in mind."
To that end, LCRA TSC began ordering a portion of the steel that could be used for lattice towers– about 30 percent of the steel that would be used for all of LCRA TSC’s 400 miles of 345-kilovolt-line projects if all those projects would be built with lattice towers. The materials are being stored in about half a dozen laydown yards near different cities.
"We ordered some of the steel for lattice towers because of the potential risk of all the transmission service providers ordering the same material to build 2,300 miles of lines simultaneously," Nelson said. "We continue to evaluate schedules and material needs."
LCRA TSC is one of several transmission service providers that have been formally ordered by the PUC to construct new transmission lines required to connect Competitive Renewable Energy Zones to areas throughout the state. A CREZ is an area where wind generation facilities will be installed throughout West Texas and the Panhandle and from which transmission facilities will be built to various other areas of the state to deliver mostly renewable power to end-use consumers in the most beneficial and cost-effective manner.
"We don’t plan to order more than 30 percent of the steel until the PUC selects our route and structure types for the Gillespie-to-Newton Transmission Line Project," Nelson said. The steel that has already been ordered will continue to arrive over the next few months. "If the PUC tells us to build something other than lattice towers, then we will use what we already bought on other projects or sell the materials," Nelson said.