When the California Public Utilities Commission decides whether to approve a planned electric substation just north of the Mexican border, its decision could have far-ranging implications. San Diego Gas & Electric\u2019s proposed East County, or ECO, substation project has the potential to go a long way toward turning an outlying area of its territory into a hotbed of renewable energy development. \u201cThere\u2019s a huge potential for renewable energy in the eastern part of San Diego County, Imperial County, northern Baja [California],\u201d SDG&E spokesperson Jennifer Ramp said. \u201cSo the ECO substation could really jump start, I believe, the renewable picture in this part of the state.\u201d The project would include a new 500\/230\/138 kV substation, a new 3,000 foot 500 kV transmission line to loop the substation into the existing 500 kV Southwest Powerlink transmission line, and a rebuild of the existing Boulevard Substation to operate at 138\/69\/12 kV on a new parcel adjacent to the existing substation. Also included would be a new 138 kV transmission line of about 13 miles from the ECO substation to the rebuilt Boulevard Substation. The California Public Utilities Commission is currently considering the application and has said it expects to issue a decision sometime during the first quarter of 2012. If approved, construction could take a year to 18 months, Ramp said. The commission did not respond to requests for comment by press time. As currently designed, the proposed ECO substation would sit on 58 acres in a tri-corner area where San Diego and Imperial counties meet with the northern Mexico border, near the towns of Jacumba and Boulevard. It would interconnect with the existing 500 kV Southwest Powerlink transmission line and facilitate development of wind and solar energy projects by providing an interconnection point on the existing power grid, according to the utility. SDG&E also says the facility would improve electric service and reliability in the area and help meet the state\u2019s mandate of obtaining 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Additionally, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study identified eastern San Diego County, Imperial County and the northern Baja region as some of the top locations in North America to generate electricity from wind, the sun, and steam heat from the ground. Despite all this, the project has its detractors. Although the renewable development potential is something that excites some solar and wind power proponents, it frightens and even angers some area residents--and the Legislature apparently backs them up. During a meeting in Jacumba Jan. 24 by administrative law judge Hallie Yacknin, over two dozen area residents spoke vehemently against the project, saying it would cause disruptions to the local ecology and increase wildfire danger. In August 2011, the state Senate\u2019s Energy, Utilities, & Communications Committee voted 6-2 in favor of a resolution asking the U.S. Department of Energy to deny a permit to construct a cross-border power line for the project between Mexico and San Diego County. The line would tie the SDG&E transmission system to a Mexican wind development area co-owned by SDG&E\u2019s parent company, Sempra Energy, and oil and gas company BP. The non-binding resolution had been supported by the California State Association of Electrical Workers, which has pushed for building transmission lines in the U.S. to create American jobs. SDG&E spokeswoman Ramp said that if approved, the project would generate plenty of construction and other jobs on this side of the international border. \u201cOnce Sunrise Powerlink was approved, we saw a huge surge in interest from renewable developers wanting to put projects in Imperial County, because there was a clear path to the marketplace--there\u2019s a 33 percent (renewables) law,\u201d SDG&E spokesperson Ramp explained. \u201cSo the same thing\u2019s probably going to happen with the ECO substation, where you have a lot of these projects that are already in the queue to interconnect with that substation, we could see more potential wind and solar in the eastern part of the county,\u201d she said.