BPA completes upgrade to Celilo converter station as part of Pacific DC Intertie project

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) on Jan. 21 said it completed $370m in upgrades to the Celilo converter station at the northern end of the Pacific Direct Current Intertie, including the installation of six massive transformers, on time and on budget.

The upgrade work is part of a larger project by BPA to modernize the northern leg of the Pacific DC Intertie, with the overall project scheduled to be completed in the fall and increase the capacity of the line from 3,100 MW to 3,220 MW, BPA said in a statement.

The 500-kV transmission line, also known as Path 65, began service in 1970, extending 846 miles from Sylmar, Calif., in the southern part of the state, through Nevada to The Dalles, Ore., where the Celilo station is located. BPA said it is upgrading the 265-mile portion of the line that it owns, from the Columbia River to the Nevada-Oregon border.

BPA in 2013 awarded the work for the Celilo converter station upgrades to ABB (NYSE:ABB). BPA noted that the new transformers, each weighing more than a Boeing 747 airliner, were shipped from the manufacturer in Sweden and up the Columbia River by barge to The Dalles.

Keeping the previous equipment in safe operating condition required shutting down the intertie for several weeks of maintenance each year, while the new equipment, much of it digital, needs far less routine upkeep, reducing outages and costs while improving performance for customers, BPA said.

BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer said in the statement that the return to commercial operation of the Celilo station is “an important moment for infrastructure development in the region,” and he commended the work of BPA and its partners.

“Thanks to their ingenuity and dedication, a unique but aging collection of 20th-century technology has been transformed into a state-of-the-art asset to serve the Northwest and beyond for many years to come,” Mainzer said.

BPA and its partners completed the work on the Celilo station on time and on budget, added Richard Shaheen, senior vice president of transmission services at BPA.

“These significant steps to improve the backbone of the regional grid will both strengthen reliability and increase our capacity to deliver energy, contributing to the vitality of the Northwest,” Shaheen said in the statement.