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Economic and dam related articles

BPA Considers Alternatives
to New Transmission Line

by Erik Robinson
The Columbian, January 20, 2011

The Bonneville Power Administration is considering a series of efficiency upgrades that could forestall a controversial new transmission line for five years or longer.

However, even as it weighs "non-wire" alternatives, the federal agency will continue its process of vetting alternative routes for a 500-kilovolt line connecting new substations between Castle Rock and Troutdale, Ore.

Carried along towers as tall as 15 stories, it would be the first major line in the Portland-Vancouver area in four decades.

Even so, the efficiency study raises a tantalizing possibility for thousands of Southwest Washington residents worried about a new line's effect on health and property values.

"At the end of the day, we have to make sure we're operating a safe and reliable transmission system," BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said. "If this path looks promising, and there are things we can do to delay the need for the line, we would certainly do it."

Bonneville last year hired the San Francisco-based consulting firm Energy & Environmental Economics Inc.

In a report released Thursday, the firm concluded that a series of efficiency measures "have the potential to defer the need for the transmission project by 5 or more years beyond the currently estimated 2015 need date for the ... project."

The report indicated the imminent need for a new line -- estimated to cost $340 million to $360 million -- could be reduced by tamping down peak loads during the summer, when the grid is shipping large volumes of energy south to help California keep cool. (In turn, generators in the south ship energy north to help meet the Northwest's peak demand for winter heating.) Summertime energy demand is growing in the Northwest, as air conditioning is increasingly included with new construction.

The new report suggested a new transmission line might be avoided by:

Bonneville will sign a new contract with the company to explore the cost and feasibility of undertaking those measures.

The agency also will reconvene a panel of energy experts who met in 2003-06 to explore "non-wire" alternatives for meeting energy demand in the Pacific Northwest without overloading the transmission system.

"Technology's always changing," Johnson said. "They'll have a good idea of what's out there and what's possible."

Erik Robinson
BPA Considers Alternatives to New Transmission Line
The Columbian, January 20, 2011

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