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Gov. Brown: Earth’s Future is More Important Than Preserving East County

SDG&E, state and local officials hail “green energy superhighway” at Sunrise Powerlink ceremony.

At ceremonies dedicating the Sunrise Powerlink, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested the future of the planet is more important than preserving land in East County.

“We all love the backcountry, but we love the planet more,” Brown said Thursday morning as part of a 16-member group of federal, state and local officials gathered at the new Suncrest Substation in Alpine.

The Sunrise Powerlink—which sparked opposition from many in the East County and elsewhere—was emphatically dubbed a “reliable” energy source for the region’s future.

“If we don’t get off of gas, oil and coal, you’re going to have heat waves and extreme climate events,” Brown said. “These installations are absolutely necessary for the transformation in our energy supply that global warming requires.”

The high-voltage power transmission line was completed and put into service June 17, but a group of officials, including Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, “lit” it up Thursday at the substation under the hum of the power lines.

“Someone said ‘the snap, crackle and pop’ is the sound of success,” said Mike Niggli, president and chief operating officer of SDG&E.

The $1.9 billion project is 117 miles long and will carry “clean” energy from developing solar and wind farms in the Imperial Valley to San Diego, according to SDG&E. Though the clean energy sources are still in the works, Gov. Brown said the line still provides immediate vital electricity to San Diego.

“They’re going to benefit now,” Brown said. “San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is closed and ... unless we have transmission lines to bring the power from far away, the electricity won’t be there.”

San Onofre shut down in January 2012 due to a leak in the steam generator. Two retired generators at a Huntington Beach power plant in Orange County had to be turned on to make up for the nuclear station.

But some people still oppose the massive project, which includes six miles of underground 230-kilovolt cable and a 40-acre, 500-kilovolt transmission substation. 

Protesters gathered near the station Thursday morning with signs claiming that public land, and beauty, is lost.

Among those opposed to the line and substation is East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

In a written statement issued Thursday, Jacob expressed concern over the transmission lines and the increased chance of fires in the rural area of the Cleveland National Forest, where the substation is located.

She said anyone who supports the new line is indirectly contributing to the next major fire disaster in East County and beyond.

“Any policymaker attending this ‘celebration’ needs to justify the line in the face of documented evidence warning of its extreme fire dangers,” Jacob said. “SDG&E brushes off concerns about fire safety by claiming that the utility has a fire plan.

“The line traverses some of the most fire-prone terrain in the world. It will impede firefighting efforts from the air because firefighters cannot make water drops on energized lines.”

Jacob also noted that public safety was one of the reasons two PUC judges recommended that the line be rejected back in 2008.

Chris Wurzell—division chief of information, education and engineering at CalFire—agreed with Jacob, saying the Sunrise Powerlink sits too close to a parallel power line.

“Introduction of electrical transmission lines into the wildland adds to potential ignition and sources that can ignite wildfires,” Wurzell said in a letter to Aspen Environmental back in May of 2008.

“From a fire control viewpoint, the transmission line that parallels I-8 on the proposed southern route of the Sunrise Powerlink Transmission project will constitute a hazard to fire suppression crews attacking fires near the transmission lines.”

SDG&E said at the dedication that Powerlink was initially slated as a 24-month project, but thanks to efforts of many people including the company’s engineers, construction was done in 18 months to meet summer power demands.

“This was not an easy project to complete in 18 months,” said Debra Reed, CEO of Sempra Energy.

At the dedication, Reed said the new line provided three very important R’s for San Diego—reliability, renewables and rates.

“Without the largest power plant in our area, San Onofre, ‘no Sunrise’ would have meant limited access to additional power for the summer and possible service interruptions,” Reed said. “Without Sunrise, the governor and state’s aggressive renewable energy goals would be tougher to achieve.”

Reeds also said that, according to the California Public Uitilies Comission, the Sunrise Powerlink will save Sempra Energy customers $115 million in net benefits annually.

SDG&E says that more than 350 mitigation measures were observed and enforced during the construction of the substation and line, including special construction schedules to avoid bighorn sheep lambing and more than 2,400 golden eagle nesting seasons.

SDG&E CEO and Chairman Jessie Knight said precautions and measurements showed the company’s “deep commitment to the environment.”

The company also says that helicopters were used to set nearly three-quarters of the tower structures, reducing the need for more access roads and that the project was constructed without any major safety incidents.

“During the building of this project, our crews adhered to some of the most rigorous environmental requirements ever placed on a transmission line project in California history,” Knight said. “We purchased more than 10,000 acres of sensitive habitat and scenic lands for future generations to be able to enjoy in our regions.”

SDG&E has reportedly signed eight renewable energy agreements in the past three years that will provide clean energy to flow through the line and to homes everywhere in San Diego.

SDG&E CEO Knight said at the dedication that the contracts will create much-needed jobs in our county and help meet the state’s “ambitious” clean energy goals that “set an example for the entire nation.”

SDG&E says that two of the eight renewable projects are currently under constriction. The company’s goal is to increase the amount of renewable power it delivers by 33 percent by 2020.

Brown remains optimistic about such goals.

“I think 40 percent could be a realistic goal,” the governor said.

Many of the 16 speakers at the dedication ceremony emphasized the Sunrise Powerlink’s reliability and importance in our future as a green state.

“Because of [Gov. Brown’s vision,] we were determined to go and make a commitment to reduce our greenhouse gasses by 25 percent by the year 2020 and 85 percent by the year 2050,” said former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “All of this can only become a reality... if you have a green energy line like this.”

Speakers from SDG&E, the PUC, Sempra Energy and Sacramento called the Sunrise Powerlink a necessity for the region, both for the environment and the economy.

“Today we are celebrating that we have 1000 megwatts of clean energy,” Schwarzenegger said. “ And we are celebrating that this project created 23,000 jobs.”

Catryna White July 27, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Morons! Put the lines underground!!!!! And, San Onofre. Wow! I remember when that piece of garbage was built. As soon as it was finished and fired up, our utility bill doubled overnight. And, now it's obsolete?! Didn't even last 35 years. What stupidity! Just goes to show how mankind doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
James Jones July 27, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Arnold's got a lot of balls showing up in this town. Pardon any murderers lately??!!
Komfort July 27, 2012 at 05:18 AM
If the 1000 megawatts of clean energy is true, which I doubt, get ready for 1000 megawatts of peaker plants in your backyards. Mandates...
Batman July 27, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Underground is considerably more expensive to build and is more prone to failure with extremely high voltages.
santee citizen July 27, 2012 at 03:38 PM
just another example of the little guy getting the shaft, while those at the top rake in tons of money.
Craig Maxwell July 27, 2012 at 06:58 PM
As John and Ken hilariously noted yesterday, (KFI AM 640) the simultaneous presence of ex-Governor Clown Hair and (present) Governor Dementia probably represents the most formidable combination of gubernatorial incompetence and lunacy to ever unite in one place.. (And just imagine what that says about the voters who elected them.) The "Powerlink"--a hideous marring of our beautiful backcountry--will do NOTHING; ZILCH, ZERO, NADO to reduce "greenhouse gases." And neither will the multiple and massive Obama-sponsored "wind farms," with turbines 500ft high, that will soon permanently obliterate hundreds of thousands of acres in our deserts and mountains. What does political insanity look like when it's put in power. Just look around the county.
Tom Vyse July 28, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Watching the "Santee Power Plant" articles and responses along with this article has convinced me that there are people whose sole contribution to the discussion of Anything is to complain. Especially when other people are actually trying to accomplish something. Somehow they seem to think that benefits society or their little group. Sometimes their complaints are very self centered, like "I don't want to see that out of my window", or "My wife is very, very sensitive to changes in the air". Maybe they should form a committee, like "The Committee to Oppose Everything", or especially "The Committee Opposing Anything That Actually Works". There used to be groups called "Luddites" who opposed technological change. The folks I've seen do this and go beyond. They seem to love "mobs" and are focused in anger. "Truth" becomes a causality which is gladly discarded in the passion of their "cause". The IQ of the discussion is dragged down trying to deal with them. It's really very primitive, and IMHO, rather sad.
Margie Logue July 28, 2012 at 08:08 AM
Two questions: 1) If SDG&E so earnestly wants to decrease green house gases, why do they want to put up a natural gas power plant that eliminates tons of green house gases? and 2) Where are the 23,000 created jobs? and Tom, your comment is one big complaint so what's your point?`.
Komfort July 28, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Margie, mandates for "green" energy necessitate carbon belching power plants. When a solar or wind energy source petitions the California Public Utilities Commission to sell wholesale energy on California's grid they submit their projected power potential. This way the CPUC knows how much energy is available for SDGE and the other energy retailers to sell. When a green source of energy claims to be able to produce 100 megawatts of energy, by their contract they have to always be able to do.exactly that. When the wind stops blowing or when a cloud flies over a solar array or when nighttime hits the solar array, green energy comes to a standstill. The solution? A one to one backup of reliable energy is designed to rapidly fill in any deficiency in the green grid. If power from the sun falls to 80 megawatts and demand on the grid requires 100 megawatts, 20 megawatts will be delivered from natural gas peaker plants. The type of energy produced from peaker plants cannot travel great distances, like their giant turbine counterparts that produce a consistent energy, so they have to be placed closer to the community that has energy demands. Quail Canyon is one of these. The biggest hurdle the eco-pods are having, in fighting this plant, is a reckless demand that MORE energy come from renewable sources. By design, any more green energy will mean that many more peaker plants. This eludes them. If you don't want to see these plants in everywhere, don't "go green."
Mary July 28, 2012 at 07:10 PM
I look at the problem a little differently. Renewable “green” energy supplements what you call reliable energy. That’s why the Sunrise Powerlink is a BIG deal. It allows renewable “green” energy to be transmitted long distances. Your “reliable” energy has proven they can’t keep up with peak demand usage, thus rolling brown outs we’ve encountered in past years. With the ability to convert and transmit solar and wind energy long distances for our use, we leave a smaller human footprint on our earth than if we build more or larger fossil fuel plants that emit pollution into our atmosphere. People who think we should not go “green” only encourage oil and gas companies to continue their ever increasing high prices and make the United States dependant on the world market. I would much rather manage the risks from the Sunrise Powerlink than have to deal with a catastrophic problem at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, like Japan had to, and still is dealing with.
LG Joe July 29, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Far fewer than his predecessors.
Mike Walker March 05, 2013 at 04:04 PM
CPUC Commissioner Peevey lobbies behind the scene his pro gas, pro Utility co agenda http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/print/12630

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