According to documents filed through the Public Utility Commission, a major transmission line that would be built in Wharton County and run through Matagorda County has been approved by the PUC.
Documents indicated that ERCOT has determined there is a need to improve the transmission system in the Freeport area in the near-term and long-term due to significant forecasted industrial load growth; this application addresses the long-term issues identified in the review.
According to the document, “the commission limits the authority granted by the order to a period of seven years from the date the order is signed unless, before that time, the transmission line is commercially energized.”
The transmission line was a proposed 345-kilovolt double circuit electric transmission line that was to be built between the Bailey Substation in Wharton County (east of the intersection of Bailey Road and SH 60) and the Jones Creek Substation in Brazoria County (northwest of the intersection of SH 288 and SH 36).
According to Haskel Simon, one of the proposed routes would have intersected the southern portion of Matagorda County including his property and landowners in the area rose up in opposition to the proposed route.
Simon said a secondary northern route was approved by the PUC avoiding Matagorda County.
“The line would utilize massive steel towers in height,” Simon said. “Our concern was that these massive towers traversing the many small tracts in our county, in some cases within 100 feet of a residence or business, would be just unacceptable from a possible health standpoint and cause the property value to plunge.
“We expressed our concerns as directed and were greatly relieved to see the northern route was approved,” Simon said.
According to Matt Minor, chief of staff with State Rep. Phil Stephenson’s office, 1,178 landowners were mailed information regarding a transmission project along the coast. The estimated cost of the 30 proposed alternative routes range from $482 to $695 million according to CenterPoint documents.
The proposed line would be built by CenterPoint Energy and was fueled by the economic growth in the Freeport area.
According to CenterPoint, transmission lines are an essential part of the facilities necessary to deliver electricity to residents, businesses, and governmental entities throughout Texas. Economic growth in the Freeport area has led to a trend of large industrial facility additions in the area. To meet the growing demand for electricity, CenterPoint Energy completed projects in 2016 and 2017 to increase the load-carrying capacity of the transmission system in the Freeport area.
However, as large industrial facilities continue to site in the Freeport area, the potential for existing transmission system capacity upgrades becomes limited. CenterPoint Energy and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) determined that a new transmission line is needed to maintain transmission grid reliability, provide for future load growth and provide operational flexibility to perform routine maintenance in the Freeport area.
In September of 2018, ERCOT designated CenterPoint Energy’s Bailey Substation in Wharton County and Jones Creek Substation in Brazoria County as the end-points for the new transmission line. The approved route passes through Brazoria, Matagorda and Wharton Counties and is approximately 55.5 miles in length.
The reasoning behind the expansion was significant forecasted load growth from industrial customers in the Freeport area served by CenterPoint necessitates the construction of transmission facilities along the agreed route.