A total of $1.1 billion in new high-voltage electric lines are in the advanced planning stages in Arizona and adjacent states as utilities attempt to keep up with population and economic growth and increase the reliability of the Western transmission grid.
While power companies have rushed to build electric generators fueled by natural gas, construction of the transmission lines to move that energy to growing metropolitan areas is still catching up.
“There are more plans than we’ve had in the past. It’s tied to the high growth in our area,” said Paul Herndon, project manager for a new Arizona Public Service line planned from the Palo Verde nuclear plant hub west of Phoenix to Yuma.
Among the major transmission projects planned in Arizona:
• A $250 million, 115-mile line from Palo Verde to Yuma will provide additional power to the growing Yuma area. APS, which plans to follow the route of an existing line between those two points, expects to begin construction in 2009 and place the line in service in 2012.
• A 25-mile West Valley to Pinnacle Peak transmission line planned across the north side of the Valley by APS will bring additional power supplies to the Valley from coalfired plants in northern Arizona and other sources. The $100 million project is expected to be under construction in late 2008 or early 2009 and be completed in mid-2010.
• A 160-mile line from Palo Verde through Pinal County and looping north to the Browning substation in east Mesa is under construction and expected to be completed in 2011. A joint project of Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and the Santa Cruz Water and Power Districts Association, the $160 million line is intended to supply power to growing areas in Pinal County and eastern Maricopa County.
• Another major project is a $600 million, 230-mile line planned by Southern California Edison from the Palo Verde switch yard to a substation near Palm Springs, Calif. The purpose of the 500-kilovolt line is to move electricity generated at several new natural gas-fired plants built by independent power producers near the Palo Verde nuclear plant in the last few years to the Los Angeles area.
The route will follow approximately the route of an existing high-power transmission line built in the early 1980s, which moves electricity from the Palo Verde plant to Southern California.
“Recently it became apparent the economics were right to build the second line,” said Marco Ahumada, project manager for SCE.
The new natural gas plants have the capacity to produce more electricity than Arizona needs, and that excess power can be sold to California, he said.
“These plants are very efficient,” Ahumada said, adding that they would hold down the cost of electricity in California. “Power producers in California would have to lower their prices to match the price of these plants.”
If regulatory approvals are forthcoming, the line could be under construction early next year and completed in 2009, he said.
The project is expected to employ 150 people in Arizona during construction, providing a $85 million economic impact, said SCE spokesman Paul Klein. Also, state and local governments in Arizona will receive $24 million in sales and property taxes during construction and first 10 years of operation, he said.
The entire cost of the project will be covered by SCE’s California customers with Arizona electric users having no cost responsibility, he said.
A series of public meetings to explain the project have been scheduled.
They will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Quartzite Elementary School, 930 W. Quail, Quartzite; 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the Best Western Central Phoenix Inn, 1100 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; and 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ruth Fisher Elementary School, 38201 W. Indian School Road, Tonopah.
Also there is a feasibility study on a $2 billion to $4 billion TransWest Express power line that would run from coal and wind generation plants in Wyoming to Arizona.
The route is still being studied, but it would probably run through Utah and enter Arizona at the Navajo Generating Station near Page, the Four Corners area, or the Las Vegas-Hoover Dam area.
From any of those points, the electricity could move to the Valley through existing power lines or through new lines that follow existing power-line corridors, said Bob Smith, manager of the project for APS.
A decision on whether the project is feasible is expected to be made in June, and construction could begin in 2010 with completion in 2013, Smith said. The major question is if it would be cheaper to generate power near the source of the fuel and import the electricity through the power lines or transport the coal by rail to plants in or near Arizona, he said.