Despite opposition from Hill Country landowners, the Texas Public Utility Commission declined to throw out one of the proposed wind-power transmission lines through Hill Country during an open meeting this morning.
At issue is a potential line stretching more than 150 miles from a not-yet-built substation in Schleicher County called McCamey D to Kendall County and on to Gillespie County. The Lower Colorado River Authority wants to build the line, something landowners along the possible routes have vigorously opposed. The utility — formally called the LCRA Transmission Services Company — filed its application to build the line in July, and the utility commission has 181 days from that time to approve it.
"I think we need to allow this case to go forward," said Ken Anderson, one of the three commissioners.
In April, the PUC rejected the LCRA's routing proposals for a different Hill Country line, from the Fredericksburg area in Gillespie County to Lampasas County, although that line could be revived.
There is a possible substitute for the McCamey D to Kendall County to Gillespie County line. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state grid operator known as ERCOT, is studying whether an existing transmission line, operated privately by a Florida-based company NextEra Energy Resources, could carry additional load, thus eliminating the need for the LCRA line. That study — requested by the PUC and state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay — should be completed by the end of next week, ERCOT representatives told the commissioners.
The bottom line of the utility commission's deliberations appears to be an unhappy one for anxious Hill Country landowners.
"At some point in the future, we're going to have to build a line through the Hill Country," said Donna Nelson, one of the commissioners.