AUSTIN •The more than 60-year-old Pitsburg-to-Mason transmission line in Llano and Mason counties is undergoing an upgrade that will provide needed reliability and capacity to the local electric system serving the communities in those counties.
The LCRA Transmission Services Corporation (LCRA TSC) is rebuilding its existing 69-kilovolt (kV) transmission line between its Pitsburg substation and American Electric Power’s (AEP) Fort Mason substation and upgrading it to 138-kV.
Gone will be the deteriorating and outdated double-pole, wooden H-frame structures and the old conducting wires. They will be replaced with 31 miles of new, higher-capacity, more-efficient conductor built on 202 new metal monopoles with a weathered finish that blends into the environment.
"We are proud to be longtime members of the community in Mason and Llano counties," said Stuart Nelson, manager of LCRA’s Transmission Asset Development. "We have been providing the local area with electricity since 1948 and are happy to be able to upgrade this line in a cost-effective manner so the folks out here can continue to rely on a consistent supply of energy.
"LCRA TSC also is glad that we are able to build this $22.6 million project within the existing right of way that was acquired in the 1940s when the original lines were built," Nelson said. "Our engineers have figured a way to construct these new, more reliable lines without needing to acquire more property."
The monopoles are 75 to 100 feet tall and will be installed on concrete foundations. The structures are spaced at about six or seven poles per mile, depending on the terrain. The monopoles are taller than the original wooden poles, which means fewer of them are required and they will not necessitate wider right of way (ROW).
Pitsburg-to-Castell segment in Llano County
The 14.2-mile Pitsburg-to-Castell portion of the line – mostly in Llano County – currently is nearing completion and is on schedule to return to service by the end of January.
No new easements were required for this segment of the project, since the original rights that were acquired in the late 1940s included the right to rebuild and upgrade the transmission line.
Castell -to-CTEC Mason in Mason County
About 43 parcels of land in Mason County are involved in the 13.5-mile Castell-to-CTEC Mason portion of the line. LCRA TSC acquired the rights to this segment from AEP, but the easement documents did not include the rights to upgrade and rebuild the line. LCRA TSC is purchasing those rights to complete the much-needed improvements. In the amended and restated agreements with landowners, LCRA TSC is not relinquishing its original rights, but is adding new rights while keeping the ROW width the same.
As of early January, LCRA staff said the necessary additional rights have been obtained in about 71 percent of the easements and that the others are in varying stages of negotiations.
Rights of way in Mason County will remain 50 feet wide. The poles will have arms on only one side to accommodate the narrow ROW. Construction is set to begin the first week of February with building of the concrete foundations, which cure for three weeks. In March the poles will be fitted to the foundations, and construction will continue through June.
"We will do whatever is reasonably necessary to achieve agreements with the landowners," Nelson said. "Condemnation is a last resort for LCRA TSC. We hope to be done with the acquisition of additional rights to our ROW as soon as possible, so the work can continue along the entire segment."
LCRA TSC also is acquiring temporary workspace rights adjacent to the ROW. These rights are for a limited time and will allow access to land adjacent to the ROW to provide sufficient room for construction equipment and wire pulling. For instance, in the narrow 50-foot ROW, a 55-foot long truck and trailer carrying the new poles will need more room to navigate into position.
When possible, construction contractors who clear the ROW, build access gates, string the new wire, pour the foundations and erect the new structures are instructed to try to stay on the ROW and roads leading to it. Also, access to the ROW and line is required for maintenance every two to five years, repairs and emergencies, as required.
CTEC Mason-to-Fort Mason segment in Mason County
ROW clearing and maintenance, including gate repairs and installation, started in January. Construction of this segment will not begin until after the Castell to CTEC Mason portion is completed.
This segment is scheduled to be energized this fall.
The project includes installing and upgrading four substations: Pitsburg, Castell, Mason (doubling in size and interconnecting with CTEC) and AEP’s Fort Mason.
Although it is part of the state-mandated Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) projects, because it is an upgrade this project does not require that LCRA TSC seek a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the Public Utility Commission of Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has identified this project as necessary to improve the transmission of renewable energy like wind power to other parts of Texas.
For more information, go to lcra.org/energy, or contact Steve Dyer, LCRA Public Affairs representative, at 512-940-4132.
About LCRA TSC
LCRA Transmission Services Corporation was formed in 2000 to separate LCRA’s generation and transmission operations according to the rules established in Senate Bill 7 in 1999. The wholly owned nonprofit corporation today owns, operates and maintains more than 4,000 miles of transmission lines, 300 substations and a state-of-the-art system operations control center.
LCRA is a nonprofit conservation and reclamation district that provides energy, water and community services to Texans. Created by the Texas Legislature in 1934, LCRA has no taxing authority and operates solely on utility revenues and service fees. LCRA supplies electricity to more than 1.1 million Texans through more than 40 wholesale customers. LCRA also provides many other services to the region. These services include managing floods, protecting the quality of the lower Colorado River and its tributaries, providing parks and recreational facilities, offering economic development assistance, operating water and wastewater utilities, and providing soil, energy and water conservation programs.