BPA to Spend $2B to Update Transmission Linesby Shannon Dininny, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 15, 2010
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Bonneville Power Administration will spend roughly $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars to enhance power transmission lines, upgrade aging infrastructure at hydropower dams and restore fish populations, it announced Tuesday.
The federal stimulus money approved by Congress allowed BPA to borrow an additional $3.25 billion from the U.S. Treasury, increasing the total amount of bonds that may be outstanding to $7.7 billion.
BPA announced the first $2 billion in projects during a visit by Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, who assessed progress on one of the largest: construction of a 500-kilovolt line between McNary and John Day dams.
"This important investment in the Northwest is an example of the Recovery Act at work - jump-starting the economy, modernizing the nation's infrastructure, delivering renewable energy and enhancing energy independence," he said in a statement.
Overall, BPA plans to spend about $1 billion for large power transmission projects, including the $343 million McNary-John Day line, which will begin in Oregon near McNary Dam, cross the Columbia River into Washington and run parallel to it for 75 miles, then cross the river back into Oregon and end near John Day dam.
So far, construction crews have completed about 30 miles of line and towers.
The line will provide for transmission of an additional 495 megawatts of wind energy in the Northwest when completed early next year - an upgrade BPA officials have said is crucial to integrating the increasing supply of wind power into the electricity grid.
Blustery conditions in April produced the most wind power the region has experienced in one month since commercial wind power became part of the Northwest landscape. For much of that month, the region's wind turbines ran at more than 90 percent capacity. The normal average is 30 percent.
"This is the first project being built primarily due to the explosion of wind energy in the region," said Steve Wright, BPA administrator. "We're reaching the point where the amount of wind power in the region is exceeding the capability of the transmission lines to handle it."
The project is expected to create 100 to 200 construction jobs.
Another $585 million will be spent to upgrade smaller, existing transmission systems, with about $250 million to upgrade aging infrastructure at five hydropower dams.
Money also will go toward energy efficiency programs and three fish hatchery projects that are intended to help restore fish populations in the Columbia River basin.
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