Ten West Link starts construction on transmission line connecting California and Arizona

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California Construction News staff writer

Vice-president Kamala Harris joined with Arizona and California leaders, members of Lotus Infrastructure Partners, the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) on Jan. 19, for the start of construction on Ten West Link, a 125-mile high-voltage transmission project that will connect California and the Desert Southwest.

Harris said expanding the electrical grid will allow the nation to deploy more renewable energy, a crucial ingredient in addressing climate change.

“I think we’ve turned the page, and there’s consensus that it’s time to take this crisis seriously,” she said.

The power line known as the Ten West Link will stretch 125 miles connecting electrical substations in Tonopah, Arizona west of Phoenix and Blythe, California on the border between the two states.

President Joe Biden’s plan to move the nation toward more renewable energy will require thousands of miles of new transmission lines to bring power from vacant lands where solar, wind or geothermal energy can be harnessed to cities where it is used. Administration officials say a massive, high-capacity line stretching across a sunny stretch of desert will encourage investors to drop money into large-scale solar fields in Arizona’s sunny desert to produce power for Phoenix and Southern California.

The groundbreaking event took place just west of Tonopah, AZ near the Delaney Substation, where the project will connect to the Arizona electric grid before traveling westward into California.

Ten West Link will improve grid efficiency and reliability, while enabling new renewable energy and energy storage resources.  At its peak, construction will bring more than 350 jobs to the region, including more than 250 union construction jobs.

When completed, this new transmission “superhighway” will have the initial capacity to transmit 3,200MW between Central Arizona and Southern California, improving the reliability of the bulk power system serving the two regions, while reducing costs to ratepayers.

“The local IBEW workers putting steel in the ground for the Ten West project are delivering on President Biden’s vision for cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy for all Americans,” said National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi. “The Biden-Harris administration will always be a partner to the workers that are building a clean energy economy that’s made in America.”

The Ten West Link route traverses a region with some of the highest potential for utility-scale solar photovoltaic energy development in the nation. The project will provide critical transmission infrastructure to support the development of future utility-scale solar energy resources and will boost the reliability of the bulk power system for millions of customers in Central Arizona and Southern California. The project will have a conductor capacity to transmit 3,200 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity and provide interconnection capability for new energy projects located in the region. It is expected to be operational by the end of 2023.Also, Ten West Link will facilitate development of new renewable energy solar and solar plus storage resources in the rapidly growing Desert Southwest region.

“America is at the start of an historic transition away from fossil fuel plants that pollute our communities and toward cleaner and safer energy sources,” Harris said. “To create this clean energy future, we must construct thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines all across our country.

“All of this also creates jobs — good-paying jobs, union jobs.  Jobs for IBEW linemen who will build and repair these lines.  Jobs for young people looking to start a career in clean energy and the clean energy economy.

Ten West Link will be under the operational control of the CAISO, with more than 7,000 Megawatts of renewable energy resources currently applying to interconnect to the bulk transmission grid via the line. The project’s role in unlocking these potential renewable resources attracted green loan financing, in recognition of the substantial contribution of Ten West Link to environmental objectives in the region.

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