Houston — Xcel Energy has completed a 240-mile high-voltage electricity transmission line connecting West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, the company said in a statement this week. This project is part of its more than 7,000-mile Power for the Plains grid enhancement initiative, stemming from a 2010 Southwest Power Pool study.
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The TUCO-to-China Draw project is a new 345-kV transmission line between the TUCO Substation north of Abernathy, Texas, located in the heart of the South Plains agriculture and oil industries, and the China Draw Substation southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, located in one of the nation's richest oil and gas producing areas, according to a company statement.
"The ag and energy industries in the southern half of our regional system are demanding more electricity, and the capacity of existing lines was not adequate to meet today's needs nor the expected growth," Xcel Energy spokesman Wes Reeves said June 18. "This is especially true in southeastern New Mexico where new technologies opened up vast oil and gas resources in the Delaware Basin. As these industries have grown, so have the towns and cities that support these activities. Additionally, the lines are helping us move more economical market power into the region."
The TUCO-China Draw line is the western extension of another 345-kV transmission line built in 2014 from the TUCO Substation eastward to a major power hub near Woodward, Oklahoma. The TUCO-China Draw line project was built in phases starting in the summer of 2017, Reeves said.
"While reliability and capacity were the chief drivers behind this line, all the new lines also play a large role in helping us add more renewables to the system as we work toward an 80% carbon reduction by 2030, with an aspiration to provide 100% carbon free electricity by 2050," Reeves said.
These investments in new connections to the wider market quadrupled Xcel Energy's electricity import capabilities, boosting the region's power supply during peak demand months, according to a company statement.
Power for the Plains
Power for the Plains efforts began in 2011, based on a 2010 SPP study that identified the need for new infrastructure to boost the reliability and capacity of the regional system, Reeves said.
The Power for the Plains network includes more than 7,000 miles of high-voltage lines across the Panhandle and South Plains regions in Texas and portions of eastern and southeastern New Mexico, and reaches into the Oklahoma Panhandle and southwestern Kansas.
A significant amount of the Power for the Plains effort has focused on strengthening connections to SPP, whose footprint covers portions of 14 states across the central US.
As part of Power for the Plains, Xcel Energy has invested in more than 1,300 miles of new transmission lines since 2011 in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. Another 200 additional miles of transmission line are planned to be constructed through 2021, including two more projects this year and two projects in 2021.
Since 2011, over 75 new substations have been built or upgraded. Another 11 substations will be built or upgraded through 2021. The transmission expansion represents more than $3 billion in investment.
Xcel has eight power plants in Texas and New Mexico, including two coal plants, five natural gas plants and one wind facility, in addition to a long-term power purchase agreement through the 604-MW natural gas-fired Hobbs plant in New Mexico.
The company also has long-term PPAs or owns five wind resources and six solar facilities in New Mexico, and five wind resources in Texas, as well as a 200-MW wind facility in Oklahoma.