The Rio Grande Valley ("RGV") projects are comprised of two new 345-kilovolt transmission lines stretching more than 200 miles across Webb, Zapata, Starr, Hidalgo and Cameron Counties, Texas. Both large-scale projects were completed and energized in May and June of 2016, and were built as reliability projects for a burgeoning electric load in the Lower Rio Grande Valley area. Both transmission lines were endorsed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas ("ERCOT") and deemed "critical to reliability," largely as a result of rolling outages from cold weather that occurred in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in February 2011. These outages reinforced the already existing need for transmission improvements in this area, which is projected to have continued electrical demand growth in the future. Together the RGV projects represent ETT's biggest undertaking since completion of its portion of the Texas Competitive Renewable Energy Zones ("CREZ") program in 2013.
The first transmission line that comprises the RGV projects is a 156-mile, 345kV transmission line from ETT's Lobo substation (near Laredo, Texas) to a new AEP Texas' Rio Bravo substation (near Zapata, Texas), then to AEP Texas' North Edinburg substation (near Edinburg, Texas) in the Rio Grande Valley. On October 31, 2012, ETT filed a petition to amend its Certificate of Convenience and Necessity ("CCN") with the Public Utility Commission of Texas ("PUCT") for the Lobo to Rio Bravo to North Edinburg 345kV transmission line, which was approved in May 2013.
The second transmission line that is part of the RGV projects is a 96-mile, 345kV transmission line that extends from AEP Texas' North Edinburg substation (near Edinburg, Texas) to the Brownsville Public Utilities Board ("BPUB's") Loma Alta substation near the Brownsville, Texas ship channel. On July 3, 2013, ETT and Sharyland Utilities, LP ("Sharyland") filed a joint application with the PUCT to amend their CCNs for the North Edinburg to Loma Alta 345kV transmission line, which was approved in March 2014. ETT and Sharyland each own approximately 50% of the transmission line, with ETT responsible for construction, funding and maintenance of the western portion of the line, and Sharyland responsible for construction, funding and maintenance of the eastern portion of the line for BPUB.
ETT began construction on both of its RGV projects in October 2014. Building the Lobo to Rio Bravo to North Edinburg transmission line involved acquiring more than 350 easements from 500 landowners. This line also included installation of advanced technology in the form of two (2) 24-ohm 3600-amp series capacitors, which are used to compensate for the line inductance and to increase transmission capacity and system stability. The North Edinburg to Loma Alta transmission line involved obtaining 190 easements and 140 permits. The RGV projects will not only improve the reliability and stability of the grid in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but will also provide a real engine for economic growth in communities throughout the region. "These 345-kV lines will meet the demand of customers in South Texas for many years to come," said Kip Fox, president of ETT. "As planned, they are supporting growth in the Valley, and delivering electricity produced by wind farms."