SAN DIEGO, July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Calif. Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. joined Sempra Energy CEO Debra L. Reed, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) CEO Jessie J. Knight, Jr. and other state and local dignitaries today in eastern San Diego County to officially inaugurate the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line.
The dedication ceremony, which included representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and government and community leaders representing the city and county of San Diego, was held at SDG&E's new Suncrest Substation, a state-of-the-art electric facility that is a key component of the Sunrise Powerlink.
The 117-mile, 500-kilovolt (kV) Sunrise Powerlink will carry clean energy from developing solar and wind farms in California's Imperial Valley to San Diego and enable SDG&E to increase the amount of renewable power it delivers to 33 percent by 2020, a key California environmental initiative.
SDG&E has signed eight power contracts for more than 1,000 megawatts over the past several years for solar and wind energy in Imperial County, solidifying the company's commitment to expand its renewable portfolio to 33-percent. Two of these renewable projects are now under construction.
"In addition to bolstering regional electric reliability, the Sunrise Powerlink will help SDG&E meet Governor Brown's and our state's aggressive renewable energy goals," said Sempra Energy's Reed. "The line will enable the development of new solar and wind projects in the Imperial Valley and eastern San Diego to supply our customers."
After a comprehensive five-year environmental review and permitting process, SDG&E broke ground on the project in December 2010. By reducing the original construction timeline from 24 months to just 18 months, SDG&E was able to complete the project in time to help meet summer power demands in the region. On June 17, the transmission line was fully energized and control was officially transferred to the state's transmission grid controller, the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO).
"While the Sunrise Powerlink will serve as a major conduit for renewable energy in the near future as those solar and wind projects are constructed and put into service, this transmission line is providing this region with real benefits right now," said SDG&E's Knight. "With a major power plant in Southern California currently out of service, the Sunrise Powerlink is playing a major role in boosting electric reliability and alleviating potential energy shortages."
The Sunrise Powerlink consists of more than 110 miles of overhead 500kV and 230kV transmission towers and transmission line, six miles of underground 230kV cable and a 40-acre, 500kV transmission substation. During construction, SDG&E crews adhered to some of the most rigorous environmental requirements ever placed on a transmission line project in California history. More than 350 mitigation measures were observed and enforced during construction, including special construction schedules to avoid bighorn sheep lambing and golden eagle nesting seasons.
To protect the environment and reduce the number of access roads, SDG&E used helicopters to set nearly three-quarters of the tower structures. It took more than 30,000 flight hours to complete the extremely challenging aerial construction; all without a major safety incident. Construction spanned nearly 5 million work hours. In the process, SDG&E recorded an impressive safety record given the scale of the construction project.
"The safety record for the Sunrise Powerlink was more than 50-percent better than the power industry's national average for similar construction projects; a true testament to the dedication and commitment to the safety of our employees," added Knight.
SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides safe and reliable energy service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and more than 850,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The utility's area spans 4,100 square miles. SDG&E is committed to creating ways to help customers save energy and money every day. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego.