One year after San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) energized and put into service the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink transmission line linking San Diego to the renewable-rich Imperial Valley, the positive impact of this infrastructure project is enormous not only to the San Diego region, but also to the state of California.
When the Sunrise Powerlink was energized June 17, 2012, it instantaneously brought additional imported power into the San Diego region. The transmission line played a pivotal reliability role last summer without the 2,200 megawatts (MW) of generation that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) provides to the region, and will again be one of the most important mitigation measures helping to maintain electric reliability without SONGS during high customer demand this summer.
"The Sunrise Powerlink is more valuable and helpful to our region and beyond today than when it was originally envisioned," said Jessie J. Knight, Jr., chairman and CEO of SDG&E. "It not only adds another major transmission artery to our local transmission grid, it is bringing a significant amount of imported power to our region during the summer months to compensate for the loss of power from SONGS."
"Sunrise was originally put in place to bring green energy to market and it is more than exceeding expectations in bringing solar power to load centers in Southern California," said California Independent System Operator President and CEO Steve Berberich. "And now with the loss of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, it is also proving to be critically important in maintaining reliability."
The Sunrise Powerlink allows an abundance of renewable energy production in the Imperial Valley to be delivered to SDG&E as California pursues its ambitious renewable energy goals. Since 2011, SDG&E has signed 36 renewable contracts that are now in development, totaling nearly 1,750 MW of generation capacity. When these projects are fully operational, they will produce enough clean energy to power approximately 750,000 homes and offset more than 300,000 cars from our roads.
Of these contracts, ten renewable projects - equivalent to more than 1,200 MW - are located in Imperial County. Pattern Energy's 265 MW Ocotillo Wind project connected to the grid just this past December and Tenaska's Imperial Solar Energy Center South was energized in April. Several more solar projects are under construction in Imperial County and are expected to be energized later this year and next year. Additionally, the NRG Borrego solar project located in San Diego County started commercial operation last February.
"These contracts, particularly the ones connected to the Sunrise Powerlink, have helped us achieve a cleaner, more sustainable regional energy profile which benefits both our community and communities around the state and region," said Michael R. Niggli, president and chief operating officer of SDG&E. "In both 2011 and 2012, SDG&E delivered more than 20 percent renewable energy and we are well on our way to meeting or exceeding the state's 33 percent goal by 2020."
The Sunrise Powerlink has also spurred a new economic boost to the region by creating thousands of direct jobs, injecting billions of dollars in renewable energy investments, and providing needed local tax revenues. More than $2 billion in construction spending and more than 2,000 jobs, including 529 direct hires from throughout the Imperial Valley, have resulted thus far from the renewable projects under construction in Imperial County. In addition to the construction jobs, these contracts have also generated demand for a local source of photovoltaic solar panels. Soitec, the French solar panel company, which recently opened a photovoltaic manufacturing facility in Rancho Bernardo, is ramping up production to meet demand. Soitec will eventually employ 450 local green jobs at peak production.
"Imperial County, which has battled high unemployment for years, is finally experiencing a turnaround as a result of the jobs created by all of the renewable development," said Imperial County Board of Supervisor and Chairman Ray Castillo. "While creating an electric connection between San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Sunrise Powerlink is also providing our region an opportunity to showcase our abundant renewable resources."