American Electric Power is having one of its Texas transmission lines upgraded for a potential capacity expansion.
ECSL, a joint venture of EC Source and Sargent & Lundy, is rebuilding 28 miles of wooden structures with 485 steel supports to help improve reliability on the AEP Texas Yellowjacket-Junction transmission line near Menard. The rebuilt 69-kV line will accommodate a 138-kV energized line if customers need more capacity, according to the release.
The 69-kV Yellowjacket-Junction project stretches north from Junction, Texas, to the Yellowjacket substation near Menard. The project includes the replacement of six miles of a distribution circuit, which is supported by a subset of the newly constructed transmission structures. The distribution circuit remained in service during construction from September 20, 2020, through December 15, 2020, with no power interruptions to the connected customers. ECSL completed the energized line work using glove and sleeve techniques for handling and working near live electrical lines.
“The project involves a significant amount of rock-drilling, which also means using pressure diggers,” said Eddie Moore, director of Operations, T&D, for EC Source. “We have our environmental crews on hand because they’re positioning and relocating mats and reconditioning the rights of way as we work the job.”
To keep the project on schedule while traversing challenging terrain, ECSL on-site manager Jerry Kirby is deploying a combination of pilot-drilling crews who break ground followed by excavation crews. The tag-team approach has allowed ECSL to stay on its timetable, even when crews have encountered challenges.
“The upgrade of the Yellowjacket transmission project will help reduce the likelihood of power outages, speed recovery of service when outages occur and support economic development in this area of West Texas,” said Brian Oyster, transmission project manager, senior, for AEP. “This rebuild not only sets up AEP customers for improved reliability but also higher voltage service if this area of Texas should require it for residences and businesses. Right-of-way restoration will begin later this year, once we complete line construction and substation upgrades.”
ECSL expects to complete the rebuild of the Yellowjacket-Junction line later this year. The Yellowjacket project is the third in a series of three transmission lines ECSL has undertaken in Texas for AEP.
“EC Source brings crews with the right skills and a collaborative mindset for managing a construction project with Sargent & Lundy’s engineers who designed the line,” adds ECSL project manager Cade Womack. “Those qualities help keep a project like this on schedule and on budget.”
Texas suffered devastating outages this February when Winter Storm Uri forced utilities to shed loads and leave many customers powerless. Most of those outages were due to about 52 GW in lost generation, not transmission breakdowns.