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SPP gives stamp of approval to 13 transmission upgrades

The board of directors for Southwest Power Pool has signed off on the construction of 13 transmission upgrades intended to ease congestion in specific parts of its service area.

SPP said 13 out of the 14 projects proposed as part of its 2017 ITP 10-Year assessment, or ITP10, were approved at a Jan. 31 meeting. Further review was ordered on one project, a $144 million, 345-kV transmission line that would be built in the Texas panhandle, from Potter to Tolk. SPP staff will present a report on the project in April.

If all 14 projects proceed, 93 miles of new transmission infrastructure would be constructed, and the region would see more than $824 million in net benefits over 40 years, with a total engineering and construction cost of $201 million, SPP said.

The goal of the projects is to cut down on congestion in west Texas and southwest Missouri, which SPP called two of its most historically constrained areas. The projects are also focused on boosting the efficient delivery of clean energy resources and optimizing the use of its most efficient conventional resources. The additional infrastructure will also better enable the regional grid operator to comply with mandatory reliability standards.

The portfolio of projects would provide value to the SPP service area in the case of several "reasonably likely" future scenarios: where entities collaborate on carbon reduction initiatives, entities work within their respective states to independently reduce carbon and current policies remain unchanged.

As its transmission planning and market operation processes "continue to mature, the 2017 ITP10 facilitates a healthy progression for the SPP region and addresses a variety of needs — from increased load and congestion to compliance concerns to generating facility retirements to a potential spike in renewable additions — against a backdrop of shifting public policy," SPP said. "It also incorporates generator interconnection and transmission service studies as part of the overall view of the market."

"Over the last 10 years, we've planned and overseen construction of a robust and reliable extra-high-voltage system backbone, addressed threats to grid reliability and enabled substantial savings achieved through increased access to lower cost resources," said Vice President of Engineering Lanny Nickell in a statement. "With this portfolio, we're seeking to optimize the grid through projects that are just as necessary and valuable as those included in previously recommended portfolios, but smaller in cost, scope and scale."

During the same meeting SPP elected a new member, Mark Crisson, to its board of directors, who will become active immediately, SPP said. In August 2015, FERC granted a request by SPP to add three additional seats to its board, bringing the total from seven to 10. Bruce Scherr and Graham Edwards were elected to the two other seats in January 2016.