Why are these upgrades needed?
Austin Energy is upgrading its 69 kV transmission system to 138 kV throughout its service territory to increase safety and reliability and to serve growth and development in the Austin area.
The upgrades are being completed in phases in all geographic areas of the community. The transmission line upgrade along North Lamar Boulevard and in the North Park Estates and Gracywoods neighborhoods involves replacing wooden H-frame structures that are more than 50 years old with new, more reliable steel monopoles.
What’s the difference between 69 kV and 138 kV transmission lines?
Austin Energy is upgrading transmission lines to increase their voltage from 69 kV to 138 kV, which increases the lines’ capacity to carry more power for a longer distance more efficiently. Upgrading lines to a higher voltage also reduces the loss of energy commonly associated with carrying electricity over power lines. By minimizing losses, Austin Energy reduces its costs for carrying power, with the savings ultimately passed on to customers.
What happens if these upgrades are not made?
The risk of outages that disrupt service to customers is greater if these upgrades are not made. Some transmission lines and substation equipment could become overloaded and fail during peak electricity use on the grid. Installing steel poles increases resiliency and improves reliability. Upgrading transmission circuits increases the capacity of the lines to carry more power and makes the electric grid more reliable and stable.
Why is this Austin Energy’s responsibility?
Austin Energy owns its distribution and transmission lines and is responsible for maintaining and upgrading these lines and associated equipment to provide service to meet customer needs. As a member utility of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – the operator of the statewide electric grid – Austin Energy is obligated to adequately operate and maintain its system and plan for growth and development in the Austin area.
When did Austin Energy forecast this need?
Austin Energy prepares planning models to determine when its capital assets need to be upgraded based on capacity, customer growth and age of equipment. The electric utility maintains an ongoing Capital Improvement Program to maintain and upgrade its distribution, transmission and generation assets. The Capital Improvement Program has its own annual budget, and the costs are included in the rates paid by all electricity customers.
Are transmission lines common in neighborhoods and urban areas?
Overhead transmission lines in neighborhoods and urban areas are common in the United States and throughout the world. Transmission lines carry high-voltage electricity from power plants to substations at the urban and neighborhood levels. Substations step down or reduce the voltage of the power and distribute it to be used safely by customers.
Will my residential property be affected during the upgrade and installation of new transmission poles?
In some situations, Austin Energy will need to remove fences to gain access and perform work in yards with an electric utility easement. Austin Energy will repair any damage done to fences and yards during the project at its own cost.
Will poles be removed from my residential property?
Most properties that currently have a pole will have it replaced with a new pole in about the same location. Some poles will be realigned from backyards to the front of the public right-of-way. Only one residential property that currently does not have a pole will have a pole installed. Austin Energy has contacted all residents directly affected by the project and is negotiating with property owners to purchase easements where they are needed to access the property and perform the work.
Will businesses be affected by the construction work?
The transmission circuit runs along the east side of North Lamar Boulevard from U.S. 183 to just south of Ferguson Drive, then crosses Lamar to Wagon Trail Road . Businesses in this commercial area as well as the Gracywoods and North Park Estates neighborhoods may have a scheduled outage while work is performed.
The outside lane of North Lamar closest to the sidewalk also may be closed in phases as work proceeds along the street. There may be some traffic delays because of the work and lane closures. Austin Energy will work closely with affected businesses to update them on the scheduled work and possible traffic impacts.
Will schools be affected by the project?
Nearby schools such as T.A. Brown Elementary, Barrington Elementary, McBee Elementary and Brentwood Christian School are not part of the project. However, they may experience traffic delays from construction work nearby as the project proceeds in phases along North Lamar and in the North Park Estates and Gracywoods neighborhoods. Austin Energy will communicate with the schools throughout the project regarding potential traffic impacts.
Will Capital Metro bus routes/stops be affected?
Austin Energy will communicate with Capital Metro in advance to help ensure riders can still board and get off buses along North Lamar when a lane is closed for work on the transmission line.
Will the project affect the Beauty will Save the World mural fence along North Lamar?
The transmission work requires the fence to be moved back from the right of way. Austin Energy understands the significance of the mural and its importance to the neighborhood, and will work closely with neighborhood residents to save the fence and ensure that it will be stronger and sturdier once moved. Austin Energy will pay for the costs associated with safely moving the fence.
Why does Austin Energy need to acquire easements?
Austin Energy owns easements along the right of way of its power lines. The easements allow Austin Energy to access property along the right of way to maintain, repair and upgrade its equipment and power lines.
Some transmission poles or alignment of the lines in this project will need to move onto private property where Austin Energy does not currently have an easement. Austin Energy is negotiating with property owners to purchase easements to allow the utility to perform the work.
Will Austin Energy use eminent domain to acquire easements?
It is always Austin Energy’s first priority to negotiate a fair price with property owners and avoid the use of eminent domain.
How will residents and businesses be kept informed about the project?
Austin Energy will communicate with residents, businesses, schools and other organizations well before construction on the project starts. The utility will also be in communication throughout the project once it begins.
Austin Energy will attend neighborhood meetings, neighborhood events and school events, visit businesses, and use social media, traditional media and other forms of communication to inform the affected area about the project.
What is the schedule for the project?
Work on this project is estimated to begin summer 2024. The work will be done in phases to minimize the impact of construction on traffic, residents, businesses and schools in the area.
How will this project be funded?Austin Energy will fund this cost in its Capital Improvement Program but will get most of it reimbursed by other utilities in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Utilities in ERCOT – including Austin Energy – help fund transmission upgrades across Texas because they all use the transmission lines to transport power on the statewide grid. The share of costs is based on how much electricity each utility’s customers use on the grid. Austin Energy’s share is 4%.
How can I stay up-to-date on this project?
- Email: Community@austinenergy.com