If you’ve driven along the 605 Freeway in recent days you’ve probably seen them.
Perched some 150 feet above the ground in metal baskets hung from hyper-extended cherry pickers, Southern California Edison crews are stringing 500-kilovolt power lines along new towers as part of the utility’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.
The view from the freeway is harrowing as crews grapple with the lines, which are being routed through rollers that will allow them to move freely.
Needless to say, it’s not a job many would want.
“There is a very intensive training process for our distribution crews and transmission line crews,” SCE spokesman Paul Klein said.
The 173-mile-long Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project will route new and upgraded transmission lines and substations between Kern County and San Bernardino County.
The section of lines running west of the 605 Freeway is part of segments 4 through 11. The first phase of the project – segments 1 through 3 – was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in March 2007 and has already been completed.
The project will deliver electricity from renewable wind energy generators in Kern County south through Los Angeles County and east to the existing Mira Loma Substation in Ontario.
Construction on segments 4 through 11 began in the spring of 2010, and the entire line is expected to be completed in 2015.
The project has encountered a challenge in Chino Hills, however, from residents and the city who have opposed SCE’s plan to have 200-foot-high transmission towers running through their neighborhood.
They want the lines routed underground and out of sight. But Edison said the cost of running them underground would far exceed the cost of using the towers.
Edison said the estimated costs for five proposed underground transmission configurations for the Chino Hills segment of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project range from about $486 million to $807 million each.
Those costs are preliminary and subject to change, according to Klein. By contrast, an Edison report said construction of an above-ground line through Chino Hills would cost about $172 million.
The California Public Utility Commission asked Edison to investigate alternatives to the line in 2011 after Chino Hills filed a petition protesting the above-ground portion of the project in the city.
City officials have spent more than $2 million trying to halt installation of the 200-foot-high, 500-kilovolt towers through Chino Hills.
Nearly a dozen towers would have to be dismantled and removed if the commission decides to place the line underground.
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