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New Transmission Line Brings Renewable Energy from Imperial Valley to San Diego


07/11/2011 11:00AM

The San Diego region is rapidly growing and so is the demand for more energy options. Enter the Sunrise Powerlink project.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has developed Sunrise Powerlink, a long-term energy plan incorporating renewables, such as solar and wind, into the construction of a 120-mile transmission line that will carry renewable energy from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.

Approval to build hasn't been easy. The project encountered some opposition from environmental groups, as most new transmission corridor projects do, but last July the U.S. Forest Service approved the construction, operation, and maintenance of a 19-mile stretch of transmission lines through the San Diego County region of Cleveland National Forest. Since then, the first tower was completed on March 9. To date, 13 towers have been completed along the corridor. SDG&E used its helicopter, the Sunbird, to set the bridge of the first tower. What may be even more impressive is that over half of the towers along the route are expected to be wholly installed by helicopter.

Using helicopters is beneficial to wildlife habitat in surrounding areas as many miles of access roads are no longer needed, thus protecting sensitive species and preventing habitat from degradation. Many sensitive species are located in the project's construction areas such as the flat-tailed horned lizard, arroyo toad, golden eagle, southwestern willow flycatcher, peninsular bighorn sheep, and various insects and plants. Nesting birds are also a concern. Active nests require a buffer space from construction. Only after fledglings have left the nest may construction resume.

The project's expected completion is 2012. This 500-kilovolt electric freeway has a 1,000 megawatt capacity, enough to power 650,000 homes. The project will combine solar, wind, and geothermal energies. Sunrise Powerlink will harvest renewable, efficient energy and help a small portion of the country become less dependent on foreign oil and other fossil fuels.

This project is a great example of how to bring renewable energy to where it is needed mosturban areas. If the public wants lower energy costs, it's time for all stakeholders to support renewable energy project solutions. What's needed to accomplish this are fewer bureaucratic roadblocks, and a better understanding at state and federal levels of the benefits not only of renewables, but even more importantly, from new transmission lines.

Bravo, California!