Low Turnout for High-Stakes Grid Overview

By Published On: May 26, 2006

While three transmission projects affecting northern San Diego County have all attracted large crowds during various community meetings in recent months, only about 60 community members and stakeholders attended an informational open house held by the California Independent System Operator May 19 and 20 in the Rancho Penasquitos area of San Diego. The grid operator held the outreach event to shed light on the process of transmission deployment in California. “The forum [was] not to endorse or debate any one particular transmission project,” according to CAISO. “Although some people have a lot of knowledge about the process and projects, there are still a lot of people who don’t know our corporation or our function,” said CAISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman. This was the first time CAISO hosted its own community open house, he noted. The grid operator’s usual modus operandi is to appear at local forums. “What we’ve been hearing is a lot of confusion on how the roles are divided. We want people to understand where each component fits,” said Julie Gill, CAISO’s government affairs representative. Three proposed projects that would affect the region are: ? The Sunrise Powerlink/Green Path plan to transmit up to 500 kV of renewable energy – solar and geothermal power – from the Imperial Valley into San Diego and boost reliability in the populous coastal area. ? The Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (LEAPS) venture, where an underground station would pump water from a reservoir uphill. Water would then be released back downhill during peak daytime hours to generate electricity. ? A Tehachapi-area endeavor that would result in developing a 500 kV transmission line. It aims to connect wind generation currently developing in that area to Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric transmission systems. The projects have been the subject of much community discussion – mostly negative (Circuit, Feb. 3, 2006). Included at the event was a booth titled “What We’ve Heard.” It featured handwritten comments by community members posted on oversized sheets of paper. Among the comments: “Sunrise is only being built to access Mexican generation”; “The LEAPS transmission line will cause extreme fire danger”; “Lake Elsinore water quality may be harmed, not improved”; “Wind turbines are not reliable because they only work when the wind blows”; “The ISO is unduly influenced by the utilities.” “What we’re trying to do is take a step back and be very transparent,” Gill said. She added that CAISO was there not to dispute most of the comments, but to engage in a dialogue about them.

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