Bonneville Power says New Transmission
by Jonathan Brinckman
The federal stimulus allows construction of the line, which will help get wind energy onto the grid The Bonneville Power Administration will start building a 79-mile, $246 million electrical transmission line this spring along the Columbia River that the agency says will create 700 construction jobs.
The regional power agency said it is going forward with the project, which has been on hold since 2002, because the stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama raises the BPA's borrowing authority by $3.25 billion. Its current borrowing authority is $4.4 billion.
"The recovery package allows expansion plans of this magnitude," said Steve Wright, the BPA administrator.
The high-voltage line will connect electrical substations at the McNary Dam in Umatilla County to the John Day Dam in Sherman County. The 500-kilovolt line is scheduled to carry electricity by late 2012.
The Renewable Northwest Project, a Portland organization that supports solar, wind and geothermal energy, hailed the plan as a key component for delivery of wind-generated power from proposed projects in Oregon and Washington to the electrical grid.
The transmission line will carry electricity from 11 massive wind projects that will together generate enough power to meet the average demand of about 450,000 homes. Those projects will generate 700 megawatts, and the line has a capacity to carry 870 megawatts.
The agency owns and operates a 4,734-mile network of high-voltage transmission lines. It will repay the federal government for the $246 million construction cost of the new line.
Until the borrowing authority was raised, BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said, the agency had calculated that it would reach its borrowing limit in 2013 or 2014 with work already on the books.
The agency will also start getting environmental approval for three additional high-voltage transmission lines, which would add 146 miles to its network. The reviews, conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, will each take 18 months to three years to complete.
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