The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) operates the state’s electric grid. In the past decade, ERCOT has collected wind data and designated potential areas for development based on the wind quality and availability of transmission to the consumer.
In December 2006, ERCOT published a report based on the data that was reviewed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) in developing eight Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ). The Texas Legislature approved the CREZ projects involving the construction of more than 2300 miles of 345 KV transmission lines at a cost of approximately $5 billion.
In 2008, the PUC contracted and authorized the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and several other transmission providers to develop and build the approved CREZ transmission routes to bring wind energy from yet undeveloped wind farms in West Texas to consumers east of the Texas Hill Country. As part of the larger project, LCRA studied five main routes with several alternatives through the Hill Country using high voltage transmission lines connecting the McCamey D to Kendall Stations.
Mason, Menard, and Gillespie Counties were named in the study area as Route “P” (P-line). A group of affected landowners (P-Line Intervention Group) retained legal counsel and intervened in the PUC process of selecting transmission routes. Intervention is a complicated set of administrative laws and procedural rules and has been “fast-tracked” for two reasons (1) state legislation and (2) a January 24, 2011 deadline for selection of a route.
On January 13, 2011, the PUC held an open meeting in Austin, Texas. There was considerable dialog between affected landowners, the PUC and LCRA. The P-Line was removed from consideration by all three commissioners. The final decision was made on January 20, 2011 in Austin, Texas at the PUC Hearing Room.
Though Mason County has been removed from consideration, this issue will affect many in the Hill County for many generations as the need for resources continues to grow.