Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Pure energy: San Diego’s controversial Sunrise Powerlink activated

San Diego Gas & Electric announced this week that the much-debated Sunrise Powerlink has been completed and energized. The 117-mile, 500,000 volt transmission line that connects San Diego with the Imperial Valley is the culmination of close $1.9 billion, five years of environmental reviews and 18 months of construction. According to NASDAQ, The review was so extensive that it is being considered “the most comprehensive study of a proposed transmission power line in state history.”

“Putting the Sunrise Powerlink into service is the final milestone in a complex and challenging energy project that ranks among the largest and most significant in the history of San Diego Gas & Electric,” said Jessie J. Knight Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of SDG&E in a press release. “Design, planning, construction and implementation of the project required scores of public hearings, detailed construction schedules to accommodate a wide array of environmental regulations and coordination of thousands of helicopter flights to ferry crews and material to the construction sites along the route.”

The project faced plenty of adversity along the way, with the Imperial Valley News reporting that residents of nearby cities Lakeside and Alpine attempt to stop the line from passing through their respective areas. But according to Imperial County Supervisor Gary Wyatt, the revenue generated by the construction made it all worthwhile.

“This vital infrastructure project and the construction jobs that were created as a result have revitalized the Imperial Valley region, which has experienced high unemployment for years,” Wyatt said in the press release.  “The Sunrise Powerlink, which now provides the pathway for local renewable energy projects, enables us to develop Imperial County’s abundant renewable energy resources while also preserving our natural resources and native habitat.”

With summer right around the corner, the completion also comes when power is needed in the area more than ever, particularly to avoid brownouts and outages.

"The timing for completion of this important new transmission artery could not come at a more critical time," added Steve Berberich, president and chief executive officer of the California Independent System Operator Corporation. "Sunrise Powerlink is more valuable today than when it was conceived because of the significant reliability benefits it brings helping to compensate for the loss of power from the San Onofre power plant this summer."