BPA continues work on three major transmission projects, rate case

With summer approaching, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) officials are occupied by three major transmission projects, including the Big Eddy-Knight transmission project in Wasco County, Ore., and Klickitat County, Wash., several smaller transmission projects, and a rate case.

Construction is underway on portions of the Big Eddy-Knight transmission project, which consists primarily of constructing a new 500-kV transmission line and ancillary facilities, extending approximately 28 miles from BPA’s existing Big Eddy substation in The Dalles, Ore., to a proposed new Knight substation about four miles northwest of Goldendale, Wash.

As construction crews work on some portions of the project, BPA is working with property owners along other portions of the route to secure needed rights of way, a BPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub May 24. In addition, BPA is addressing “cultural resource and preservation issues.” As a result of these facets of the project taking longer than originally anticipated, the completion of the project has been moved from winter 2013 to winter 2014.

On another front, the agency is reviewing nearly 600 public comments it received on its I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. The public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) ran from Nov. 14, 2012, the day after the draft EIS was released, to March 25, which included an extension to the original 108-day comment period that gave interested parties 132 days, or nearly 19 weeks, to submit comments. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a comment period of at least 45 days following release of a draft EIS.

The I-5 project is a proposed 79-mile, 500-kV transmission line from Castle Rock, Wash., to Troutdale, Ore., intended to increase capacity and relieve congestion in the Longview, Wash., area and the Portland, Ore./Vancouver, Wash., metropolitan area. The line will cost approximately $459m and is scheduled to be energized in 2018. 

As it prepares the final EIS, which it expects to issue in 2014, BPA will continue to work with cooperating agencies and landowners to refine the project location and design, according to its project website. Engineering and environmental survey field work will provide additional information for potential adjustments.

A third proposed BPA project remains on hold pending confirmation from its transmission customers as to when their generation projects will require transmission service.

The 500-kV Central Ferry to Lower Monumental transmission project is planned to extend from an existing substation near the Port of Central Ferry in Garfield County, Wash., west through Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla counties in Washington to BPA’s Lower Monumental substation in Walla Walla County. The line will increase the electrical capacity of BPA’s transmission system in response to requests for transmission service in this area. BPA officials say construction will begin when it is notified of the confirmed needs of its transmission customers.

The agency is also working on several smaller projects, including the proposed 115-kV Hooper Springs Transmission Line, which would extend from BPA’s proposed Hooper Springs substation near the city of Soda Springs, Idaho, to a proposed BPA connection facility that would connect with Lower Valley Energy‘s (LVE) existing transmission system in northeastern Caribou County, Idaho. Formerly called the Caribou Valley Energy Project, the Hooper Springs project would extend between 22 miles and 32 miles depending on the routing alternative selected.

BPA is proposing the Montana to Washington Transmission Upgrade, a project to upgrade parts of its existing transmission system in Montana, Idaho and Washington. The purpose is to increase available transmission capacity from BPA’s Garrison substation in western Montana to power markets west of the Cascades that serve the Pacific Northwest. While the agency originally planned to initiate environmental review in May 2012, the spokesperson said BPA is just now in the “early stages of the environmental process … the data-gathering stage” and will discuss next steps in the near future.

Other projects include the Pacific DC Intertie (PDCI) upgrade, which will upgrade the direct-current line that connects the Celilo converter station on the Columbia River near The Dalles, , exclusively to the Sylmar converter station in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. BPA owns and operates the northern section of the PDCI, including the Celilo station and 265 miles of high-voltage transmission line to the Oregon-Nevada border.

The project includes replacing the aging four-converter terminal at BPA’s station with a modern two-converter terminal, enabling an immediate capacity increase of 120 MW, from the present rated capacity of 3,100 MW to 3,220 MW. It would also include upgrading BPA’s portion of the transmission line. BPA selected a firm to complete the substation work related to the project in late 2012. The vendor is expected to present a plan for the work to the agency in July, the spokesperson said. The upgrades are expected to be completed in January 2016, according to a BPA presentation at a recent customer forum.

The agency also has at least eight transmission line rebuild, relocation and substation projects underway across its service territory.

In addition to transmission projects, the agency is also focused on a transmission rate case (BP-14).

BPA and its customers reached an agreement announced May 16 that settles the portion of the rate case that defines charges for balancing services within BPA’s service territory within the generation inputs portion of the rate case.

The agreement settles the parties’ disputes concerning generation inputs and sets 10 transmission ancillary and control area services rates for the rate period, which covers fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Other matters, however, remain to be settled. The rates to be charged for power and transmission over the next two fiscal years must still be decided through the open rate case, which began in November 2012 and will conclude in late July. At the conclusion of the rate case, BPA will file the final rate proposal with FERC for interim approval of the rates to be effective from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2015.