Bulletin: SDG&E energizes Sunrise Powerlink

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) on June 17 energized the Sunrise Powerlink, a 500-kV line linking San Diego to the Imperial Valley, an area with rich renewable energy resources.

“We have turned control of the line over to the California ISO, and it’s now part of the state’s grid,” an SDG&E spokesperson told TransmissionHub June 18.

In a statement announcing the line entering service, SDG&E chairman and COE Jessie Knight said, “Putting the Sunrise Powerlink into service is the final milestone in a complex and challenging energy project that ranks among the largest and most significant in the history of San Diego Gas & Electric.”

The $1.9bn, 117-mile project was completed in 18 months, nearly six months ahead of the original construction schedule, despite delays to protect wildlife, construction mishaps, and a month-long grounding of the helicopter construction fleet after a series of violations and rotor strikes.

Helicopters setting the final tower on the Sunrise PowerlinkThe line was heralded as a gain for economically depressed Imperial County. “It’s a very important component to our developing the renewable energy sector in our county,” Imperial County’s district 4 supervisor Gary Wyatt told TransmissionHub on June 18. “It’s going to help our employment situation here and, being a farm-based economy, helps us to diversify the economy and develop the sector, so it’s very important to us.”

While the line will not immediately transmit renewable energy, it will instantly benefit regional reliability by helping compensate for the loss of power from the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

“The timing for completion of this important new transmission artery could not come at a more critical time,” Steve Berberich, president and CEO of the California ISO said.

On its first day in service, the line was transporting approximately 500 MW of power, according to the SDG&E spokseperson. The line is capable of importing up to 800 MW of power into San Diego, and will eventually be able to carry 1,000 MW of power.

The line will transmit renewable energy from the wind- and solar-rich Imperial Valley once generation projects in that area are complete. Over the past three years, SDG&E has signed eight renewable agreements for more than 1,000 MW of solar and wind power from projects in Imperial County. Some of those projects are expected to come on-line within a year or so, according to Wyatt.

By 2020, 33% of SDG&E’s power will be derived from renewable resources, according to the statement, in compliance with the state’s renewable portfolio mandate.

SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE).