For a striking glimpse of a power grid rapidly evolving to handle renewable power, look to the Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest. Crews just finished using a Skycrane helicopter to assemble 65 steel towers for a new high-voltage transmission line to move wind power throughout the region.
I visited the Northwest in June to celebrate the completion of 35 miles of the same 500-kilovolt line -- the McNary-John Day line -- one of BPA’s projects to support economic recovery. The project is just over a year into construction, with towers now stretching across 45 miles. When completed in early 2012, the McNary-John Day line will allow BPA to provide firm transmission service of 495 megawatts of wind energy in the Northwest.
The project is now on schedule and under budget. The Skycrane helped BPA overcome challenging environmental conditions and made the work safer for workers on the ground. Crews are now pouring the foundations for towers that will stand more than 300 feet tall and carry the line across the wide Columbia River.
During my visit, I announced that BPA would fund $2 billion worth of projects, including the McNary-John Day line, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funds will help BPA upgrade its transmission system, make improvements to hydroelectric facilities, construct fish hatcheries and build on already robust and successful energy efficiency efforts.
BPA’s Recovery Act projects will create hundreds of good-paying jobs and help reduce carbon pollution by bringing even more renewable energy to the region. This important investment in the Northwest is an example of the Recovery Act at work – jumpstarting the economy, modernizing the nation’s infrastructure, delivering renewable energy and enhancing energy security.
There are currently almost 100 people working on the project and, at its peak, it is expected to employ approximately 140 people.
The project is turning out to be a great value for its customers and Northwest rate-payers.
Daniel Poneman is the Deputy Secretary of Energy.