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Economic and dam related articles

BPA Puts Modernized Celilo Converter Station
into Service, Tames High Volumes of Power

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, January 22, 2016

The Northwest transmission grid took a step into the future today with the $370 million modernization of a one-of-a-kind piece of infrastructure, the Celilo Converter Station.

Construction began in the fall of 2014, and the station had been out of service since October for final installation and comprehensive testing of its customized new equipment.

The unique converter station, owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, tames and transforms high volumes of electricity flowing through the northern end of the Pacific Direct Current Intertie. The 846-mile electron super-highway, the longest commercial transmission line of its kind in the nation, connects the Northwest with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at Sylmar, Calif.

BPA, which funded the improvements, is also in the process of upgrading the 265-mile portion of intertie that it owns from the Columbia River to the Nevada-Oregon border.

The modernization of the converter station -- including six massive new transformers, each weighing more than a Boeing 747 airliner -- anchors a $498 million package of BPA-funded grid upgrades to the northern leg of the PDCI. When the final phase of the overall project is completed this fall, the BPA transmission-line upgrades will raise the capacity of the intertie from 3,100 to 3,220 megawatts.

The Pacific Direct Current Intertie, a high-voltage direct current system, was a model when it was energized in 1970. Direct-current systems can move large amounts of electricity over long distances more efficiently than alternating current lines of a similar length because less power is lost to the air as heat along the way.

That electrical feat, and the intricate technology that supports it, attracts utility representatives, government officials and business people from as far away as Africa and Asia to visit Celilo. But after more than four decades of vigorous, dependable service, the vintage equipment at the converter station had far surpassed its operational life span and was due for a transformation of its own.

The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale electricity from 31 federal dams and one nuclear plant to 142 Northwest electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA delivers power via more than 15,000 circuit miles of lines and 259 substations to 490 transmission customers. In all, BPA markets about a third of the electricity consumed in the Northwest and operates three-quarters of the region's high-voltage transmission grid.

BPA Puts Modernized Celilo Converter Station into Service, Tames High Volumes of Power
Columbia Basin Bulletin, January 22, 2016

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