California planning transmission for renewables in 2040

The transmission technical group (TTG) for California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is taking the first steps toward developing the methodology that will be used to identify and develop the transmission needed to maximize southern California’s renewable energy resources in the year 2040.

Engineers from Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) are examining five renewable energy study areas (RESAs) “to figure out what kind of transmission it takes to get all that renewable capacity to load centers,” the TTG’s co-chair Dennis Peters told TransmissionHub on Sept. 7.

Approximately 22.5 million acres of federal and non-federal California desert land are in the DRECP plan area.

Planners met via teleconference Sept. 5 to discuss possible methodologies to evaluate the transmission resources available, and determine what additional resources would be needed to incorporate sufficient renewable energy to meet the state’s 2040 greenhouse gas goals.

This is not a transmission planning exercise in the traditional sense, Peters said.

“We are not, for example, running power flow studies; we’re not doing anything like that. This is just a very high-level look at what amount of transmission it would take to get the renewables that are proposed in these five alternative [areas] to load centers,” he said.

While stopping short of assessing the environmental impacts of those facilities, the methodology will also consider the amount of land affected.

“What would be the impact, acreage-wise, of a large collector substation? What would be the acreage impact of a 500-kV single-circuit or double-circuit line or a 230-kV single-circuit or double-circuit line?” are among the questions the TTG is endeavoring to answer, and will then build in to its methodology, Peters said.

Peters noted that the engineers are focused on the “what” rather than on the “who.”

“The transmission planning exercise is blind to who owns [the transmission] or who builds it,” he said. “When it comes to actually building a line, it’s still going to go through the same process. It’s going to be developed in various transmission planning processes within each of the balancing authority areas.”

The group plans to deliver technical results to DRECP leadership by the end of the month, detailing the transmission components and the acreage impacts of each of the five RESAs. A more detailed report will follow shortly thereafter and will be included in a draft environmental impact review (EIR) the DRECP is anticipating issuing late this year.

“This is all conceptual at this point; we don’t know exactly where generation is going to be cited,” Peters said. “It’s 2012, we’re looking 28 years into the future, and we don’t know what kind of technologies are going to be developed or where developers are going to build.”

The DRECP is being prepared through a collaborative effort between the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

SCE is a subsidiary of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).

PG&E is a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG).

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