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Big California Wind Power Deal Faces Gridlock

The massive 1,500 megawatt wind power deal announced Thursday by utility Southern California Edison (EIX) and a subsidiary of Australian company Allco Finance will crank up California’s wind energy capacity by 65 percent. That will go a long way in helping the state meet a mandatory target of generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. But renewable energy projects like the huge wind farms to be built in SoCal’s Tehachapi region face a big hurdle: insufficient or non-existent transmission lines to connect the windy and sunny parts of California to the power grid. Yesterday, as the Tehachapi project was being announced, the California Energy Commission released a report warning that, “the lack of transmission infrastructure to access remote renewable resources is the most critical barrier to meeting California’s 20 percent target by 2010.”

“Despite efforts by utilities and the renewable industry in working groups for the Tehachapi wind area and Imperial Valley geothermal and solar resources areas,” the report continued, “California’s efforts to spur investments in renewable transmission infrastructure have not yet been successful. Unless these challenges are resolved, renewable transmission projects will continue to languish.” The energy commission identified the Antelope Transmission Project as crucial if big Tehachapi wind farms like those envisioned by Southern California Edison are to be built. The Antelope transmission project would allow 700 megawatts of wind power to be sent to the Southern California power grid. The project has been winding its way through the regulatory approval process for several years and approval of various environmental impact statements is not expected until at least sometime in 2007. Then it will be a race to construct the nearly $2 billion project in time to meet the 2010 renewable energy deadline.

Posted by Todd Woody


California Energy Commission report: PDF