WAPA, Duke-American Transmission Co. move on California power line project

A San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority spokesperson on Feb. 1 told TransmissionHub that the current project cost estimate is $323.5 million, but that estimate continues to be refined

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Duke-American Transmission Co., the Western Area Power Administration, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, and the Bureau of Reclamation announced plans to move forward on the San Luis Transmission Project, which is designed to enhance electric service to the San Joaquin Valley in California, according to a statement.

The project involves building a new 85-mile, 230-kV transmission line from WAPA’s substation in Tracy to the San Luis, O’Neill and Dos Amigos substations in the Los Banos area, the statement noted, adding that the route will parallel existing transmission facilities through non-irrigated ranch land.

The project, which is fully permitted, will provide electricity for the economical and reliable delivery of federal water supplies to Central Valley and Bay Area residents, businesses, and farms, the statement noted.

According to the project’s website, the project has completed all necessary environmental review and compliance under NEPA and the California Environmental Quality Act. A preferred route for the project has been determined, the site noted.

A San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority spokesperson on Feb. 1 told TransmissionHub that the project is largely designed, and that the current project cost estimate is $323.5 million, but that estimate continues to be refined.

A WAPA spokesperson on Feb. 1 told TransmissionHub that construction on the project is expected to begin in spring 2021, and that the project is expected to be in service in summer 2023.

WAPA is the lead federal agency for the project, developing it for the Bureau of Reclamation and its San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, according to the statement, which also noted that WAPA is legally required to provide electric transmission service to Reclamation and its customers.

WAPA’s previous transmission contract with Pacific Gas and Electric for the delivery of San Luis Unit power at the federal Central Valley Project expired in 2016, and Reclamation requested that WAPA develop a new transmission service arrangement to replace the expiring contract, according to the statement.

“This public-private partnership maximizes the benefits of building critical energy infrastructure while simultaneously meeting the electricity needs of extremely important agricultural and water customers responsible for the majority of U.S. produce production,” WAPA Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel said in the statement.

Randy Satterfield, president of DATC, said in the statement: “Public-private partnerships can provide advantages in critical, regionally significant infrastructure projects, such as the San Luis Transmission Project. In this partnership, DATC’s transmission expertise will benefit public stakeholders as they secure a predictable, reliable transmission connection to support the water and power needs of the Central Valley.”

Cannon Michael, chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority board of directors, said in the statement that the San Joaquin Valley’s “farms, ranches and associated processing facilities generate tens of thousands of jobs and require affordable and dependable sources of electrical power. The project will help meet those needs for decades to come and will help the Valley’s agricultural industry remain productive and competitive.”

Bureau of Reclamation Power Operations Division Chief Barry Mortimeyer said in the statement: “This transmission line is a last major piece of the San Luis Project as envisioned and authorized by Congress. It will provide stable and durable power costs for the delivery of Central Valley Project water to our agriculture communities, municipal/industrial customers and refuges.”

According to the statement, the project will support renewable energy development in the Valley.

“The project is designed to fill a gap in the power supply grid for California and will enhance the state’s ability to transfer needed power from areas where it is generated to areas where it is needed,” Michael said in the statement. “It will also create opportunities to help California meet its renewable energy mandates by providing access to the grid for solar energy generated within the Valley.”

The partners are in the process of negotiating a funding agreement in principle for the project that will allow for the use of 400 MW of capacity by the water customers with about 200 MW of additional capacity available, according to the site, which also noted that DATC will soon begin marketing the additional capacity.

The 200 MW of available capacity will be available to area utilities and renewable energy developers, the statement noted.

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