By Betty Miller
The Desert Review
December 10, 2021
SEELEY — The $55 million S-Line transmission groundbreaking was appropriately held with solar panels and the Imperial Valley Sub-station flanking the ceremony as Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County officials joined stakeholders digging gold-colored shovels into the ground, marking the physical beginning of the major transmission line upgrade, Thursday, Dec. 9.
Its purpose is to import and export power, connecting the Imperial Valley and El Centro substations and maintain stable and reliable power to IID customers and the Southern California energy grid.
The 18-mile S-Line was originally constructed in the 1980s with technology now outdated. The 293 wooden poles that carry the lines wheeling electricity from the Valley to San Diego and Arizona will be replaced with 184 steel poles and 18 miles of fiber optic wire.
Ryan Jordan of Cordova was the senior project manager of the build. He explained that the S-Line, so called because of its shape, will carry the same voltage but will bear more load than the old line did.
“The project had a lot of issues. It is not technically hard to do, but the logistics are challenging. It’s like you have a big puzzle with all the parts moving and at one point you need to make everything come together exactly,” Jordan said. “But the IID folks are amazing, there was a lot of passion, and now the project will be built.”
Others involved with the design and engineering were ZGlobal and Ferrera Power West. Citizens Energy, Joe Kennedy’s firm, helped finance the project. Peter Smith, Citizens Energy representative spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony.
Antonio Ortega, IID Government Affairs and Communications officer, said Sunpin will be the first to connect to the new, improved line when it is expected to be completed by late 2022. The power load it will carry could provide 325,000 homes with electricity, but it’s use will be to wheel the power generated from the solar fields to San Diego. The solar fields, as the one in the background, will wheel its created power through the S-Line to the substation at the end of the line where other companies will interconnect buying the electricity to power Southern California.
“It was 15 years ago when Joe first came to the Valley with Sunrise Power. People in D.C. are just now trying to put energy and social justice together. You are way ahead of them, Citizens has been plowing half our profits into installing solar panels in low-income housing here,” Smith told the assembled dignitaries.
IID Board President Jim Hanks was the keynote speaker, saying he had been chasing this line for 15 years, saying the IID had been missing potential money on it and now it was a monumental project putting a major transmission line on the IID grid.
“If you look at the shovels,” Hanks pointed to the lineup of golden shovels and hard-hats resting on the handles, you will see that one lacks a hard hat.” He reached into the podium bringing out the missing hard hat. “This one’s mine, I expect there to be many more projects, so I keep this in my car. I’ve got a shovel in there too,” he said to the laughter of those attending.