CA gets new renewable energy transmission lines - John Antcza

CA gets new renewable energy transmission lines

May 10, 2010 - John Antczak - The Associated Press

The first phase of a huge electrical transmission system to connect wind, solar and other renewable energy sources in the Mojave Desert to Los Angeles has been completed, Southern California Edison said Tuesday.

The new section is capable of transmitting 700 megawatts and is already energized with wind power, said Theodore F. Craver Jr., chairman, president and chief executive of Edison International, SoCal Edison's parent.

When the entire system of new and upgraded transmission lines is completed in 2015, it will be capable of delivering 4,500 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to the amount of power used by 3 million homes.

The first phase of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project includes three trunk lines from the windmill-studded Tehachapi Mountains to substations. When eight more segments are completed the project will have cost $2.1 billion, Craver said.

"There are both wind and solar projects that we expect will ultimately fill up that 4,500 megawatts," he said in a telephone interview before ceremonies at a new substation in the town of Mojave.

The system will enable California to move toward its targets of serving 20 percent of the customer load with renewable energy by this year and 33 percent by 2020.

"Thousands of megawatts of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other clean energy is waiting to be developed," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a webcast of the completion ceremonies.

By building the transmission system to move power from remote locations to where it is needed, independent developers can move forward with plans to build renewable generation facilities, Craver said.

"More and more the constraint is actually transmission, not the projects," he said. "The projects are permitted, they're ready to go, we've even contracted to buy the power from those third parties. But they can't build the projects unless there's transmission to bring the power."

SoCal Edison serves a 50,000-square-mile area with a population of nearly 14 million people.

Craver said 17 percent of power used by SoCal Edison's customers comes from renewable resources and that will rise to 19.5 percent or more this year, compared to a national average of less than 4 percent.

"It's a very big part of our mix," he said.

Craver said renewable power serves public policy goals in making progress toward energy security and greenhouse gas reduction, but it does create system issues.

"The wind blows when it blows and the sun shines when it shines, unlike the rest of the system where we control the flow of power" from natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric plants, he said. "On renewables, Mother Nature controls it."

Part of the renewable transmission project crosses Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains, where a wildfire burned across 250 square miles last year.

The changed conditions required the U.S. Forest Service to issue a supplemental environmental impact statement. A draft is now out for public comment.