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Investors try to secure permit for long-sought Arizona-California power line

More than 12 years after the Arizona Corporation Commission refused to grant Southern California Edison Co. a permit to build a large portion of a 500-kV transmission link from Palm Springs, Calif., to Palo Verde, Ariz., a group of investors is leading a new effort to complete the project.

Despite Arizona's earlier rejection of the swath of the line planned for that state, SCE built the portion of the original project that ran through California in order to move solar energy from photovoltaic projects sited in the desert, particularly in Riverside County. California regulators granted the necessary permits after concluding that building the transmission line in that state alone was important for tapping renewable resources and improving reliability, even without Arizona's cooperation.

Now, private investors want to build the Arizona portion of what previously was known as the Devers to Palo Verde 2 project. Calling their effort the Ten West Link, DCR Transmission LLC — a joint venture led by affiliates of Starwood Energy Group Global LLC, a private investment firm specializing in energy infrastructure investments — would run the project 125 miles along the same path as the Arizona-California span of the Devers to Palo Verde 2 project. DCR Transmission on Dec. 9 filed an application for a permit from the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee to construct the new project, a 500-kV transmission line extending from Arizona Public Service Co.'s Delaney substation near Tonopah, Ariz., to cross the Colorado River into California.

The siting committee includes a designee of the Arizona commission's chairman and six individuals appointed by that agency, which in 2007 denied the Edison International subsidiary's proposal to build the Arizona portion of the line. In its application, DCR Transmission said it has selected a route that addresses the objections previously raised by the Arizona commission, such as by avoiding the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Johnson Canyon and populous areas.

But the route alone was not the sole source of concern for the Arizona commission. The agency in 2007 also said it was troubled that the proposed project might result in too much of the state's power being sent to California. The agency further worried that the California ISO could exert control over the line, which would run into the heart of Arizona's power-generating region at the Palo Verde hub, where the Palo Verde nuclear power station and several large gas-fired plants are located.

California builds its lines

The Arizona commission expressed a willingness to reconsider its decision the following year. But SCE declined the state agency's overtures and, as a severe economic recession in 2008 took a toll on load growth, decided the project no longer was in its customers' best interest.

Instead, SCE proceeded with the California portion of the project, constructing the 500-kV line for 111 miles between the utility's new Colorado River substation and its Devers substation and also extended the line from Devers to its Valley substation in Menifee.

The project was started in 2011 and was completed in September 2013, according to SCE's website.

If the Ten West Link ever is built, transmission facilities would link Palo Verde with SCE's transmission facilities that extend into communities on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The Ten West Link would be built using a combination of existing utility corridors, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor, and private and state land. The line would interconnect with SCE's Colorado River substation near Blythe, Calif.

DCR Transmission obtained federal right-of-way approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the Ten West Link project after a four-year environmental review, the project developer said in a Nov. 22 press release.

The CAISO Board of Governors approved the Delaney to Colorado River link in July 2014 and the CAISO selected DCR Transmission to develop, permit, finance, construct, own and operate the line.