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LMUD considers transmission line upgrades

Westwood PinePress of Westwood, California

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Staff from the Lassen Municipal Utility District presented a bold plan to increase the capacity of its transmission lines at no cost to its customers at the district's meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Ray Luhring, LMUD's general manager, said the publicly owned utility district's contribution to the project would be its existing transmission line right of ways.

"That transmission corridor is of extreme value,"

Luhring said. LMUD would make money on the new proposed power lines by charging the energy producers a tariff to carry the power on its system. The tariffs are standard in the electrical industry, and Luhring said all the energy generators would pay the same tariff, which could be adjusted if necessary.

The proposed project could come online within three years, Luhring said, and it would more than double LMUD's reliability.

The Transmission Agency of Northern California terminated the environmental review process for proposed transmission lines in Lassen County July 15.

Prior to abandoning the project, the agency had proposed three transmission corridors across Lassen County. TANC hoped to complete the environmental process and select one of those proposed corridors. The proposed project met stiff opposition from the public in the Central Valley.

According to the presentation to the LMUD board, while TANC has abandoned the project, it still "agrees with the assessments of the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and the California Independent System Operator that additional transmission must be built to meet California's goals for renewable clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction."

TANC's project would have allowed access to 85 percent of the renewable energy resources identified in Northern California through the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative process.

The need for transmission remains. Before companies invest millions of dollars to develop generation projects, they need to secure a way to get the energy they create to market.

Earlier this month, LMUD staff held a renewable trans-mission planning meeting with solar, wind and bio-mass energy developers who are looking to export the energy they create through the LMUD system to market.

Energy developers at the meeting included solar projects proposed by OPDE USA, Swenson Technology, Solar Power, Inc., Great Basin Wind, LLC and Sierra Army Depot.

Energy developers at the meeting also included wind projects proposed by Third Planet Wind power, Invenergy, LLC, Great Basin Wind, LLC, and Alturas Ranches.

Energy developer energy Enlightened Generation has proposed a biomass facility in Susanville.

These developers plan to generate between 1,850 megawatts and 2,505MW of green power.

Luhring said developers that have proposed another 100 to 600MW of generation were unable to attend the meeting.

. LMUD's current transmission capacity is approximately 110 MW. LMUD's usage peak at about 28MW, Honey Lake Power generates 28MW and another 2MW from geothermal plants take up more than half of that capacity.

Lassen County Supervisor Jack Hansen, Lassen County Administrative Office John Ketelsen, Assemblyman Dan Logue's Senior Field Representative Steve Thompson and local businessman Rocky Deal also attended the meeting.

"There are several developers who have requested capacity in our system which, at this point, cannot be provided," Luhring said.

Currently, LMUD has approximately 80 miles of 60 kilovolt transmission lines.

Under the staff proposal, LMUD would upgrade its transmission capability with a single or double line across the county from the View-land substation in the east to the Westwood substation in the west.

LMUD also would tie into the 345kV Rat line to allow energy to flow to the east.

Dave Fulce, LMUD's operations manager, said a single line would cost about $60-80 million. A double line would add another third to that cost.

According to the LMUD staff plan, the upgrades would be funded through federal and state stimulus funding and by the energy developers themselves.

PG&E also would have to upgrade or rebuild 19 miles of transmission lines from Westwood to the Caribou Substation to handle the increased transmission.

According to the LMUD plan, the new transmission lines would hang on new 90-foot poles within the LMUD's existing right of way. When installed, 15 feet of the pole would be underground, and they would rise to a height of 75 feet.

Fulce described the poles, which could be constructed from metal or laminated wood, as "ornamental towers."

Due to their height, the new poles require a 60-foot right of way and LMUD may have to acquire additional rights for the portions of the right of way.

Renewable energy's important future

In November 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order requiring both investor-owned and municipal utility districts to provide 33 percent of their energy from qualifying renewable energy sources by 2020. Several bills are currently working their way through the California legislature to enact the governor's executive order.

Schwarzenegger said the state's increasing investment in renewable energy will "help us fight climate change while driving our state's green economy."

Luhring said LMUD could enter into a power purchase agreement with one or more of these developers and meet the state mandate.

While green power is more expensive than other power, Luhring said LMUD's usage is small enough the district can afford to purchase the higher priced power.

Even though the purchase price of the power would be higher, Luhring said the district would not have to pay the tariff and wheeling charges to bring the power to its customers.

Director Richard Vial noted that without the tariff, the green power would cost about as much as the power the district now purchases.

Vial asked Luhring if there were any disadvantages to the proposed project.

"I can't think of any," Luhring said.

According to the proposal, LMUD would be the lead agency for the Environmental Impact Report and the California Environmental Quality Act reviews.

Board President Fred Nagel said the environmental reviews could be costly. He also suggested the district seek the county's support for the project.

Director Wayne Langston questioned the need for green energy when some scientists claim we're actually in a period of global cooling, not global warming.

Nagel reminded Langston the use of green energy is required by law, and LMUD will need to comply or face stiff fines in the future.

Langston said the district's east-west transmission was important, but he didn't care about the source of the power.

"I don't care if it's renewable or if it's coal," Langston said. "If it gets the power that way (over the mountains to the west), the state of California is going to need it."

Luhring said completing the LMUD project would lessen the strain on other transmission lines in the state and everyone would benefit.

"I'm very excited about the project," said Director Bud Bowden. "I think it's the right thing to do."

What's in it for LMUD customers?

According to the LMUD presentation, the benefits to LMUD's customers include:

Increases in reliability for LMUD's system;

Revenues (wheeling charges) to help LMUD stabilize its rates;

Stable rates (energy costs, important for businesses — both existing and those looking to relocate);

Large potential for renewable energy development; and

Construction jobs (both for transmission line and generation plants.

Copyright 2009 Westwood PinePress, Westwood, California. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: September 30, 2009

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