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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) expects Texas transmission providers to complete improvement projects totaling $8.9 billion by the end of 2017.

A long-standing constraint between West Texas, where most of the state's wind energy generation is located, and the North Texas region, which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is expected to be resolved by the end of this year, when the state's Competitive Renewable Energy Zones project is completed.

However, with more than 20 GW of new wind power currently being studied, new constraints could occur in the future, particularly in the Panhandle region, ERCOT says.

To address these and other concerns, ERCOT has released the Long-Term System Assessment (LTSA) report, which provides an assessment of system needs over the next 10 to 20 years, as well as the Electric System Constraints and Needs report.

The LTSA looks beyond the five-year ERCOT stakeholder planning horizon, evaluating a range of possible scenarios that could affect the types and locations of generation resources, as well as consumer energy-use patterns.

The results indicate that the following resources likely will be needed within the next 10 years:

  • At least one path to import power into the Houston region, as ERCOT says regulatory requirements will limit the development of new generation within that region; and
  • An additional circuit to carry more power into the Lower Rio Grande Valley (unless more generation resources are developed there).

The results also indicate that the following actions likely will be needed within the next 20 years:

  • The potential retirement of older natural-gas-fired resources in urban areas could necessitate more transmission facilities within the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston regions to support capacity and voltage stability;
  • Natural gas and renewable energy generation resources are likely to be competitive in a variety of scenarios, and significant growth in renewables may require ERCOT to study the need to integrate more variable generation that cannot sustain consistent output;
  • If market factors result in significant growth in renewable resources, it may become cost-effective to develop higher-voltage transmission solutions to connect those resources to areas where electric consumption is high; and
  • Although there should be sufficient water resources to allow the operation of existing and future power plants in an extended drought, those conditions could lead to increased power-plant development in eastern Texas, where more surface water is available.

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