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Historic BEC construction project under way

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Posted: Wednesday, May 29, 2019 12:00 pm

Traversing 18 miles of Bandera Electric Cooperative’s most rugged and rural territory, BEC’s new transmission line from Leakey to Utopia represents a major contribution to BEC’s ongoing efforts to maintain reliability for members.

The cooperative said in a news release earlier this month that the newly constructed line was put into commission in April thanks to the work of teams at the Leakey and Utopia substations and in Bandera.

“This project reflects our focused approach to improving the BEC electric system infrastructure and strengthening our reliability for all members,” BEC CEO William Hetherington said in the release.

From the tallest poles to the tiniest details, the project took almost three years to plan, design and build.

The $18 million new transmission line is part of a larger initiative to upgrade BEC substations in Leakey, Utopia and Tarpley and triple their capacity over the next 14 months.

The cooperative said overall, it is the largest construction project in BEC history.

The new line and substation upgrades will help meet energy needs in the western part of BEC’s service area for many years to come, the release said.

Construction began in September 2018 and included installing larger, steel-reinforced cable and replacing 278 wooden poles originally constructed in 1965.

One hundred-fifty-five new steel poles, averaging 95 feet tall, now navigate the challenging terrain of western Bandera County and southeastern Real County. The tallest pole stands 150 feet, and the spans between some poles measure more than a quarter of mile.  

“This project allows us to maintain reliable service and allow for electric growth as our system continues to grow. As part of this project, fiber optic lines were installed to allow for high speed control and operation of the grid,” added Hetherington.

Through the fiber optic network, BEC operations personnel can identify, respond to and manage outages directly from the control center in Bandera.

The automation of equipment can now isolate outages, thus minimizing the number of affected members and helping BEC restore power more quickly.

Integrating automation into the grid optimizes system performance and helps BEC deliver affordable, reliable power to its members, the cooperative said.

“By building this new line, we are improving the infrastructure to last for at least another 50 years,” said BEC Senior Engineer Tyler Pansing. “We are also laying the groundwork for bringing fiber internet to some of our most remote areas, much in the same way that we brought electricity to the area more than 80 years ago.”

“Regularly improving our infrastructure enables us to realize the vision of being the best electric cooperative in Texas,” said Hetherington. “By investing in our system, we reaffirm our commitment to our members, improve reliability today and strengthen the BEC grid for the future.”

The BEC, with headquarters in Bandera, serves more than 30,000 members and provides electric service to 36,000 meters in a seven-county territory in the Texas hill country.  To learn more about the co-op, go online to BanderaElectric.com or call 866-226-3372.

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