PORTLAND, Ore. -
The reliability of service to millions of Northwest consumers from Puget Sound to Portland improved significantly with the completion of the 84-mile Grand Coulee-Bell 500-kilovolt transmission line. The facility relieves a major electrical bottleneck between Spokane and Grand Coulee Dam and points west.
The Grand Coulee-Bell line is the Bonneville Power Administration's largest transmission project in nearly 20 years and one of the largest in the nation. Officials will begin gathering for a dedication ceremony Monday, Dec. 6, at 9:30 a.m. at Riverside State Park in Nine Mile Falls, Wash. Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy Bruce Carnes, will attend the observance, as will BPA Administrator Steve Wright and local dignitaries.
"Grand Coulee-Bell is a major accomplishment in this administration's effort to improve the reliability of our national energy infrastructure," said Carnes.
Wright said the project, which took more than two years to design and build, was completed 30 days ahead of schedule and $16 million under budget. Total cost of the project – line and substation work – was $159 million. It was constructed mostly on existing right-of-way with state-of-art methods to protect the environment and reduce visual impacts.
"With the completion of the Kangley-Echo Lake Line east of Seattle last year and this project now, we've greatly strengthened reliability in the Puget Sound area," said Wright. "These lines are keeping the lights and heat on this winter in our homes while ensuring reliable service to Northwest industry."
Wright said the project is a prime example of BPA's use of federal borrowing authority for necessary infrastructure improvements. It connects Bell Substation in Spokane and the substation at Grand Coulee Dam, thereby relieving a choke point in the flow of power from east to west. Economic growth along the I-5 corridor and the construction of new generators east of the Cascades make such projects vital to maintaining reliability, he said.
Mark Korsness, BPA project manager, said the new 500-kilovolt line, the associated substation work, plus work performed by the Spokane utility Avista allows BPA to re-rate the capacity of the West of Hatwai transmission system from 2,800 megawatts to 4,300, enough added capacity to serve 1.2 million Northwest homes. Power began flowing on the line on Dec. 1. Tariffs for use of the line by generators and their utility and industrial customers will repay the cost of the project, Korsness said.