The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has approved upgrades to the western U.S. transmission system that are designed to strengthen grid reliability and accommodate more renewable energy, especially wind power.
Newly proposed upgrades to the Pacific Direct Current (DC) Intertie, an electrical superhighway between the Northwest U.S. and Southern California, will increase its capacity from 3.1 GW to 3.22 GW, avoid outages, and strengthen it against weather and other threats, BPA explains.
The intertie, which BPA says is one of the world's longest and highest-capacity transmission lines, delivers hydropower from the Northwest and increasing amounts of wind energy to California, while carrying electricity north to meet winter demand in the Northwest.
The improvements, estimated to cost approximately $428 million, would modernize old equipment. The upgrades would provide jobs and an economic boost in the Columbia River Gorge while replacing aging equipment with a simplified, modern converter terminal, BPA says. Crews would also work to upgrade and reinforce BPA's portion of the DC transmission line.
‘The intertie is an engineering and economic legacy, and this critical work will expand its value to the Northwest and the entire West Coast,’ says Brian Silverstein, senior vice president of BPA Transmission Services. ‘Upgrades to this vital energy link ensures that it will be available when needed. It will also reduce long-term operation and maintenance costs.’
The project is subject to environmental review consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act. At the conclusion of that review, BPA will make a decision of whether to proceed with the upgrades.
If a decision is made to go forward, BPA would identify a contractor for the project by the end of this year. Construction would be scheduled to start in early 2015 and finished in early 2016.