California regulators grant permit to PG&E to build substation expansion project

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in a final decision with an issuance date of July 19, said that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is granted a permit to build the Sanger Substation Expansion Project in conformance with certain mitigation measures.

As noted in the decision, PG&E proposed the project to replace facilities that were built in the 1920s by upgrading and expanding the existing substation with a new breaker-and-a-half bus configuration. That would enable the substation to better serve as the hub for the Central Valley 115-kV transmission system, the CPUC noted.

The project is located in unincorporated Fresno County, Calif., about two miles west of the City of Sanger, Calif., and about three miles southeast of the City of Fresno, Calif. The CPUC also noted that the Sanger substation currently occupies an approximately 4.5-acre parcel, adding that the substation will expand onto about seven acres adjacent to the existing substation on property acquired by PG&E.

The CPUC noted that 12 power lines connect to the 115-kV bus at the Sanger substation, importing and exporting about 200 MW of net power under peak conditions. The major distribution substations served by Sanger through its 115-kV lines include Manchester, Barton, Airways, California Avenue, Malaga, West Fresno, Las Palmas, Clovis, Reedley, and Parlier, the CPUC said.

According to the company, the existing 115-kV transfer facilities at the substation do not its current utility standards and must be updated, the CPUC said.

All of the existing circuit breakers will be removed and replaced, along with 24 disconnect switches, 18 steel support structures, and one control building, the CPUC said, adding that PG&E will install new electric equipment at the substation, including new circuit breakers, bus structures, 115-kV disconnect switches, instrument transformers, protective relaying, metering and control equipment, remote supervisory control and data acquisition equipment, telemetering equipment, an auxiliary alternating current and direct current power system, an electric grounding system, and underground conduits or trench systems.

Existing structures and conductors located outside of the existing substation will be reconfigured to connect to the new substation equipment, the CPUC noted, adding that that will be achieved by relocating and replacing existing structures and installing new structures to accommodate the new line angles resulting from the new arrangements.

While no new power lines will be built, due to the reconfiguration of existing power lines, about 17 existing lattice steel towers and 24 wood poles will be removed, and about 41 new tubular steel poles or light duty steel poles will be installed, the CPUC said.

The CPUC noted that the project will have either no significant impacts or less than significant impacts with respect to forest resources; air quality; geology and soils; greenhouse gases; land use and planning; mineral resources; noise; population and housing; public services; recreation; as well as utilities and service systems.

The project has potentially significant impacts with respect to aesthetics; agricultural resources; biological resources; cultural resources; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology and water quality; as well as transportation and traffic, the CPUC said.

However, with the implementation of certain identified mitigation measures, the potentially significant impacts are reduced to less than significant levels, the CPUC said.

The mitigation measures, which were attached to the decision, include that PG&E is to implement certain measures for temporarily disturbed farmland. For instance, the company is to survey agricultural fields prior to construction and return all temporary disturbance areas to pre-construction conditions after the completion of construction, except that crops will not be replanted.

The document also noted that the company is to implement certain measures in all work areas where any construction-related activities are conducted during the nesting bird season – Feb. 1 to Sept. 15 – for all species except Swainson’s hawk, white-tailed kite, and burrowing owl. For instance, if work is scheduled to occur during the nesting bird season, a CPUC-approved qualified avian biologist is to conduct surveys for nesting birds within seven days prior to the start of any construction-related activities.

The company is to also implement certain measures to ensure protection of all wildlife species. For example, the document added, if night work is required, all lighting is to be shielded and point downward and away from any identified sensitive biological resources.

The document also noted that a CPUC-approved archaeologist that meets the Secretary of Interior’s professional qualifications standards for archaeology is to implement certain procedures if an unanticipated cultural resource is discovered during construction. For instance, work is to be halted and excluded from within 100 feet of the resource, according to the document.

Among other things, the document discussed “Undiscovered potential Tribal Cultural Resources,” noting that if a resource is encountered and determined by the project’s qualified archaeologist to be eligible for the “CRHR” or a local register of historic resources and is associated with a California Native American Tribe(s) with a traditional and cultural affiliation with the geographic area of the project, then the project’s qualified archaeologist is to, for instance, notify the CPUC for appropriate action. PG&E will assist the CPUC, if needed, to identify the lead contact person for the California Native American Tribe(s) potentially associated with the cultural resource and with a traditional and cultural affiliation with the geographic area of the project, the document added.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.