When the transmission lines are finished, it will spark another round of construction—for the wind developers who have been waiting for the lines to be built before building their projects. Additionally, the commission has left open the possibility that it will order more CREZ transmission lines after 2013.
With the massive amount of work, Oncor and the other transmission service providers had to negotiate with contractors and suppliers without final engineering plans in hand. Oncor also secured recycled steel and transmission line far in advance.
"You can't sign a contract with a construction firm until you know the final design of what you are going to construct," says Calvin Crowder, ETT president. Since some of the final designs of the transmission routes are still not finalized, the joint venture secured a prime contractor with a tentative contract.
ETT, which had a $1.4-billion chunk of the project and was responsible for about 466 miles, eventually entered into firm agreements with Quanta Services Inc., MYR Group Inc. and TIC Holdings Inc. to build its lines and substations. URS Corp. was hired to be the overall project manager.
Oncor secured Snyder, Texas-based Weaver Construction and McClurley Enterprises as two of its prime contractors. Oncor is also using recycled steel for its 3,800 transmission towers. Between 900 and 1,000 workers are in the field working on the Oncor segment of CREZ.
Robert Wood, URS vice president and program manager, is guiding the work for ETT. Crowder says Wood identified the risks of contractor and labor pool shortages and of the escalation in material prices in the initial phases of the work, risks that have been averted through careful planning.
Quanta Services is doing work for four transmission service providers, but Duke Austin, president of electric power and natural gas and pipeline divisions for Quanta, says the firm has not had any problems meeting the needs of the different companies.
"The way I see it, Quanta was built for projects like this," he says. While it didn't hurt that the firm is based in Texas, it was tapped to do much of the work because "we are the preeminent contractor in this space," says Austin. He says Quanta controls the entire job, including foundations, transmission towers and wires. "If they can get the material to us on time, we can get it built on time," Austin says.
Hailey, Idaho-based Power Engineers also is working on multiple CREZ projects, with about 40 engineers assigned to the final plans for lines as rights of way are finalized.
More in the works