Repowering North-Central Austin
Why are these upgrades needed?
Austin Energy is upgrading its 69 kV transmission system to 138 kV throughout its service territory to increase safety, 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 811 transmission circuit upgrade along North Lamar Boulevard and in the North Park Estates and Gracywoods neighborhoods involves replacing wood H-frame structures that are more than 50 years old with modern and safer steel monopoles.
What’s the difference between 69 kV and 138 kV transmission lines?
By upgrading transmission lines to increase voltage from 69 kV to 138 kV, Austin Energy increases the capacity of the lines to carry power and the distance the lines can efficiently carry power. The loss of energy commonly associated with carrying electricity over power lines also is reduced when lines are upgraded to a higher voltage. 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?
There could be outages that disrupt service to customers if upgrades are not made. Some transmission lines and equipment at substations could become overloaded and fail during peak electricity use on the grid. Upgrading transmission circuits increases the capacity of the lines to carry more power and make the electric grid more reliable and stable.
Why is this Austin Energy’s responsibility?
Austin Energy owns its distribution and transmission lines. It is Austin Energy’s responsibility to maintain and upgrade 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 grid – Austin Energy is also responsible for maintaining its part of the grid. As such, Austin Energy would be considered remiss if it did not 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 on-going 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 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 to yards where Austin Energy has an easement to perform work. Austin Energy will restore damage done to fences and yards 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. Austin Energy 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 Wagon Trail Road on the west side of North Lamar. Businesses in this commercial area may have a scheduled outage while work is performed in this area. The outside lane of North Lamar closest to the sidewalk also may be closed in phases as work proceeds along the street. While ingress and egress into businesses will not be blocked, there may be some traffic delays because of the work and lane closure. Austin Energy will work closely with the 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 Beauty will Save the World mural fence along North Lamar be affected by the project?
The transmission work will necessitate that the fence be moved back from the right of way. Austin Energy understands the significance of the mural and its importance to the neighborhood. The utility 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 saving 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.
In some situations on this transmission project, the transmission poles or alignment of the lines will need to move onto private property where Austin Energy does not currently own 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 use neighborhood meetings, neighborhood events, school events, visits to businesses, social media, traditional media and other forms of communication to keep the affected area informed about the project.
What is the schedule for the project?
Construction is estimated to begin in January 2019 and end in December 2019. The work will be done in phases to minimize the impact of construction on traffic, residents, businesses and schools in the area.
How much will this project cost?
The total project cost is estimated at $5.1 million. 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 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?