The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week approved Southern California Edison’s (SCE) application to build segment one of the Tehachapi renewable transmission project.

When all phases are developed, the Tehachapi project will include a series of new and upgraded high-voltage transmission lines capable of delivering 4500 MW of electricity from wind farms and other generating companies that are proposed for northern Los Angeles and eastern Kern counties.

SCE has proposed constructing the Tehachapi project in 11 segments to coincide with the development of independently owned wind farms. This decision approves the first of three segments sometimes referred to as the Antelope project, pending approval by the U.S. Forest Service. The first segment includes the construction of a 26-mile, 500-kV transmission line connecting SCE’s Antelope Substation in Lancaster with the utility’s Pardee Substation in Santa Clarita. The new line is expected to be operational in early 2009.

A CPUC decision on segments two and three is expected later this month. SCE will file an application in June of this year to build the remaining segments.

“The Tehachapi project will strengthen and enhance SCE’s transmission system by creating a new path for renewable energy to meet the increasing electricity demand of Southern California electricity customers,” said Ron Litzinger, SCE senior vice president of transmission and distribution.

Litzinger said that this favorable decision is an important step in SCE’s efforts to deliver electricity from wind farms in eastern Kern County in support of meeting California’s renewables portfolio standard and greenhouse-gas reduction goals.

Last December, SCE signed a 1500 MW wind contract, the largest in U.S. renewable history, with Alta Windpower that relies on development of the full Tehachapi renewable transmission project. This commission approval is an important first step in assuring this and other Tehachapi contracts result in viable renewable energy projects.

The Tehachapi project is part of SCE’s five-year $4 billion transmission expansion program designed to ensure that Southern California has the robust power delivery system needed by a growing region.