The Lassen Municipal Utility District Board of Director’s dream of developing an alternative to the frequent power outages its customers are forced to suffer and endure when the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s fragile transmission lines across the Sierra fail because of weather, wildfire and God only knows what else finally has become a reality after more than a decade of planning and heartache.
Last month LMUD announced construction of the $20 million 345kV Skedaddle Substation Project has finally begun. When completed, LMUD will have a reliable connection to NV Energy and in the long run it’s hoped the connection will even save the ratepayers money.
Construction began with road building to handle all the heavy equipment, massive steel work, two large transformers and switching gear needed to build the substation. LMUD will also have to build about four miles of new line to connect with its existing lines. The power then travels about 20 miles into the current LMUD substations where it is eventually stepped down again to distribution voltage for use by customers through pole-mounted transformers.
But the improvement doesn’t come cheap. Pat Holley, LMUD’s general manager, said the current estimate for the substation is $22 million from bonds and LMUD reserves. The NV Energy substation right next door will cost an estimated $25 million. LMUD will ultimately assume that cost as well and will repay NV Energy through transmission and maintenance charges as a monthly fee.
Holley said customers can expect reliable power from NV Energy once the project is completed hopefully sometime in 2024.
“The NV Energy network is very reliable and its reliability will benefit us,” Holley said. “The PG&E line coming across the mountains from the valley — it comes from about Chico up the Feather River Canyon to Westwood — that line is through some very rugged mountain terrain and is subject to mountain snowstorms, subject to the wildfires and damages those things can cause, so we do have periodic outages because of that system.”
Holley said PG&E has been improving that line since the Dixie Fire, and he hopes that improves reliability for LMUD customers during the next two years, “but by the end of 2024 we’ll be connected to NV Energy” giving customers reliable power and hopefully will reduce costs in the long term.
Power costs in California continue to escalate significantly each year, Holley said, and while LMUD has kept its costs low within its system, “we have taken on significant additional costs due to these outages and these problems. The islanding we have to do with Honey Lake Power costs us a premium for the power. They’ve been a great partner, of course, and we utilize them all the time. We’ve been able to cobble together a more reliable system than it would have been, but it comes at a higher cost to us.”
LMUD is currently seeking bids for many of the large components of the substation and those are expected to come back in October.
“There’s a significant amount of money — the largest expense that we have in the entire project is those transformers,” Holley said of the “equipment that is at the heart of the substation.”
Contractors will build the substation. LMUD originally planned to build the substation at the Viewland site, surrounded by Bureau of Land Management land, but as the project moved forward it was determined that site wasn’t large enough and had additional environmental concerns. Holley said the Viewland site was a good idea at the time. LMUD purchased the current site near Wendel about five years ago.