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Sunrise Powerlink transmission line breaks ground in San Diego County

December 9, 2010 |  9:00 am

Transmission The Sunrise Powerlink transmission network will break ground Thursday morning near San Diego, with plans to connect Southern California’s urban areas to power produced by far-flung renewable energy plants.

Hundreds of state and local officials will be present. So will hundreds of protesters who say that the 500-kilovolt project has severe environmental and economic drawbacks.

The $1.9-billion line, backed by San Diego Gas & Electric Co., will eventually extend more than 100 miles from Imperial County to San Diego carrying up to 1,000 megawatts. Much of the electricity will come from remote solar, wind and geothermal projects, the utility said.

Sunrise Powerlink is the largest infrastructure project the utility has ever undertaken.

The groundbreaking is set for a patch of land in Boulevard, about an hour east of El Cajon and less than 10 miles from the Mexico border.

A segment of one of the transmission towers will be on display, along with a Sun Bird helicopter that will help move half of the 435 steel structures needed for the line. The “air crane” will replace 40 miles of access roads that otherwise would have been built along the route, the utility said.

Protesters But before Powerlink wraps up construction in 2012, officials will have to deal with the naysayers.

Protesters from the local Protect Our Communities Foundation, the Sierra Club and Backcountry Against Dumps group plan to picket the ceremony.

Groundbreaking, they said, is “wildly premature.” The transmission line project has faced opposition for at least six years, and several legal challenges are still active and could derail construction and force planners back to the drawing board.

The money going into construction would be better spent on rooftop solar and other local power generation efforts, opponents said. Powerlink could also mar the area’s scenic beauty and increase the risk of fire, they said.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo (top): Transmission lines near Boulevard in San Diego County. Credit: Sean Masterson for the Los Angeles Times.

Photo (bottom): Protesters at the site Thursday morning. Credit: David Hogan.

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