PORTLAND – The Bonneville Power Administration says it will build a $246 million transmission project that will create at least 700 new jobs.
The decision to begin construction this summer is due partly to $3.2 billion in increased BPA borrowing authority in the newly signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
When energized in late 2012, the McNary-John Day line will allow transmission of more than 870 megawatts of energy – including more than 700 megawatts of new wind energy.
BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said new jobs during the planning and construction phase should peak at about 700. He said there likely will be more “spinoff” jobs as the line connects with others.
The 870 megawatts would serve the needs of about 600,000 Oregon homes. Some of the power will stay in the Northwest while some likely will be sold elsewhere, Johnson said.
The line will begin north of Hermiston on the Columbia River at the BPA’s McNary Substation, travel 75 miles downriver, cross back to Oregon and end at the John Day Substation south of Rufus in Sherman County.
Most of the line will be built on existing rights of way.
It is one of four new high-voltage transmission lines Bonneville has proposed. The others will be between 20 and 78 miles long
Bonneville recently completed its environmental review for the McNary-John Day project. The other three projects will begin reviews soon, and each could take up to three years depending on complexity.
BPA Administrator Steve Wright said new transmission lines will help meet both the region’s growing energy needs and the demand for renewable power.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the increased BPA borrowing capacity one of the most significant provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
He said it will spur investments in infrastructure and technology to help up to 6,000 megawatts of wind energy to be integrated into the region’s power grid.
The BPA is a federal energy wholesaler based in Portland that provides more than a third of the energy used in the Northwest, generated by 31 federal dams and one nuclear plant.
It sells to more than 140 Northwest utilities and buys power from seven wind projects.