ALPINE (CNS) - Gov. Jerry Brown joined former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and federal, state and local officials Thursday to dedicate the Sunrise Powerlink at the Suncrest substation in Alpine, as opponents of the new transmission line staged a protest nearby.
The 117-mile line, which connects San Diego with the Imperial Valley, was put into service June 17 after a five-year environmental review and permitting process and 18 months of construction of the overhead and underground technology, according to SDG&E.
"The Sunrise Powerlink is an extraordinarily sophisticated technology that will bring solar and wind energy from the Imperial Valley to San Diego," the governor said. "Most immediately, it will help keep the lights on during this year's hot summer with the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant offline."
Opponents of the $1.9 billion project cited concerns about property values, views and safety. Protesters from several groups, including the Protect Our Communities Foundation, gathered before the dedication alongside Interstate 8 at Japatul Valley Road to demonstrate.
Back-county residents contended the transmission lines were out of character with their rural community and could create health and fire hazards.
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has long opposed the transmission line, released a statement following the dedication, stating the project's environmental documents concluded the fire dangers posed by the line were classified as the highest level possible and could not be mitigated.
"The line traverses some of the most fire-prone terrain in the world. It will impede firefighting efforts in from the air because firefighters cannot make water drops on energized lines," Jacob said.
SDG&E officials said the transmission line will enhance reliability and facilitate renewable energy development in the region. Sunrise Powerlink will deliver a significant amount of power from developing solar and wind farms in Imperial County, enabling a 33 percent increase in the amount of renewable energy it delivers by 2020, a key state environmental initiative, according to the utility.
"In addition to bolstering regional electric reliability, the Sunrise Powerlink will help SDG&E meet Governor Brown's and our state's aggressive renewable energy goals," said Debra L. Reed, chief executive officer of Sempra Energy. "The line will enable the development of new solar and wind projects in the Imperial Valley and eastern San Diego to supply our customers."
The line will initially bring 800 megawatts of imported power into San Diego and eventually carry 1,000 megawatts of power, enough energy to serve 650,000 homes, according to SDG&E.