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Lawsuit delays PUC's vote on wind projects

Wind farm developers want to put up $25.8 million to prove they really want to start building in the Panhandle, but it's not that easy. The Public Utility Commission of Texas couldn't take the vote Thursday that would have started the clock for getting Panhandle wind farms plugged into the state's grid. The holdup is a lawsuit that forced the PUC to put the brakes on the schedule to begin transmission construction.

Wind farm developers want to put up $25.8 million to prove they really want to start building in the Panhandle, but it's not that easy.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas couldn't take the vote Thursday that would have started the clock for getting Panhandle wind farms plugged into the state's grid. The holdup is a lawsuit that forced the PUC to put the brakes on the schedule to begin transmission construction.

"They're intertwined, so no action will be taken until (the case) is resolved," PUC spokesman Terry Hadley said.

The PUC has suspended the filing schedule for permits to build the lines in the Panhandle while the situation is sorted out.

Efforts continue to build lines running from the McCamey and Big Spring areas. The PUC designated them priority lines because they are intended to serve existing wind farms that have to limit their production because of congestion on inadequate power lines. That led the PUC to assign construction of them to operators already established in Texas with permits that would only have to be amended. That was intended to result in quicker completion.

The lawsuit sought to have the PUC reconsider it's rules for making transmission assignments in non-priority... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Wind farm developers want to put up $25.8 million to prove they really want to start building in the Panhandle, but it's not that easy.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas couldn't take the vote Thursday that would have started the clock for getting Panhandle wind farms plugged into the state's grid. The holdup is a lawsuit that forced the PUC to put the brakes on the schedule to begin transmission construction.

"They're intertwined, so no action will be taken until (the case) is resolved," PUC spokesman Terry Hadley said.

The PUC has suspended the filing schedule for permits to build the lines in the Panhandle while the situation is sorted out.

Efforts continue to build lines running from the McCamey and Big Spring areas. The PUC designated them priority lines because they are intended to serve existing wind farms that have to limit their production because of congestion on inadequate power lines. That led the PUC to assign construction of them to operators already established in Texas with permits that would only have to be amended. That was intended to result in quicker completion.

The lawsuit sought to have the PUC reconsider it's rules for making transmission assignments in non-priority areas like the Panhandle and name the city of Garland, which runs its own utility company, to build some of the lines. When commissioners named the construction companies, Garland lost out completely.

"Garland will now be working with (South Texas Electric Cooperative) to participate in building some (Lower Colorado River Authority) lines," Hadley said.

But the adjustment will have to be refiled in the Austin court hearing the case, and the judge must approve it before anything is final.

Then the commission can approve an order setting down the details of financial commitment, and the wind farm companies have 30 days to pay the money or present letters of credit to the companies that will build the transmission lines through the area.

The PUC chose Sharyland Utilities and Cross Texas Transmission in January 2009 to build and operate the lines and substations in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains.

The wind developers' plans call for adding enough generation to the Panhandle to power 977,200 average homes if the facilities could produce at maximum capacity 24 hours a day.

Hadley said the next PUC meeting will be April 1, probably to soon for all the details to be worked out to allow the proof of financial commitment to proceed.

As the transmission companies file for their building permits, the PUC will begin to narrow down the possible routes of the lines, moving toward defining exact routes.

Still waiting

There are nine companies ready to post collateral and start building wind farms in the region:

  • Cielo Wind Services
  • Clipper Windpower Development
  • E.ON Climate & Renewables
  • Higher Power Energy
  • Horizon Wind Energy
  • Iberdrola Renewables
  • Pattern Renewables
  • RES America Developments
  • Scandia Wind Southwest

Source: http://www.amarillo.com/sto...

MAR 13 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25105-lawsuit-delays-puc-s-vote-on-wind-projects
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