RIO HONDO — For power to flow, wind farms need more than just wind.
Acciona Energia’s second Cameron County wind farm, the $200 million Palmas Altas facility near its already operating San Roman wind farm, should be up and running by November 2019.
To move electricity generated by this wind farm and others in the area, the South Texas Electric Cooperative has filed a proposal with the Texas Public Utility Commission for around six miles of high-power transmission lines running north-south just to the east of Rio Hondo.
STEC has proposed eight different routes to the PUC, which has a year to select one of them, or reject the proposal outright.
“It’s always important to accommodate generators just like it is important to accommodate transmission service to a load,” said Cory Allen, assistant general manager for STEC, which consists of eight electric cooperatives, including Magic Valley Electric Cooperative which operates out of Mercedes. The Rio Hondo area is in Magic Valley’s coverage area.
“We have an obligation to provide those services to Magic Valley delivery points and we also have the obligation to provide transmission services to generators in the same way,” Allen said. “You can’t have load if you don’t have generation or vice-versa, so they play together.”
The new power transmission route will run from the East Rio Hondo Substation north for just over six miles to the proposed Palmas Switching Station.
The eight routes submitted to the PUC are in a heavily agricultural area and the state utility commission has a year to decide on one of the routes. Then, Allen said, STEC will move to obtain rights of way from landowners.
“It’s almost due north … maybe just a hair to the east as well,” he said.
Allen said the towers which will be erected along the six-mile route would be the new single-pole type which are less-intrusive than some of the older transmission towers.
“We like to use them because landowners on the whole, on average I guess is what you ought to say that, do appreciate a smaller footprint than the two-pole, A-frame structures or the big lattice tower structures,” he said. “Those take up a little bit more room and get in the way of a little bit more farm implements than just a single pole. … It does take a few more poles per mile but that smaller footprint seems to be the least unattractive, to landowners anyway.”
Palmas Altas wind farm
The Palmas Altas wind farm will consist of 46 wind turbines and have a generating capacity of 145 megawatts of electricity. The currently operating San Roman wind farm has 31 turbines and 93 megawatts of generating capacity.
The investment by Acciona will mean 170 jobs for the construction phase and 10 permanent positions. The additional wind farm — the company’s ninth in the United States — will boost total generating capacity to 866 megawatts.
“The fact that wind generation is something that people have embraced here in Texas, its a needed transmission line project because it’s such a large generation, you just can’t do it with smaller lines,” Allen said. “The need for the line is there and I don’t anticipate not getting approval from PUC.”
The United States is separated into just three regions when it comes to power, the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Texas Interconnection.
Almost all Texas residents, about 85 percent, live within areas served solely by the state’s own power grid. The electricity generated by the Valley’s wind farms flow into this system.