Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has been reaching out to the public to help focus its plans to build a substation near Santa Maria and about 100 miles of transmission lines.

The project will connect the Central Coast to the Central Valley with a loop of power lines to help deal with excess demand and increase reliability, officials said.

PG&E’s Central California Power Connect project plan proposes to build a substation, likely will be located east of the city, with a new 230-kilovolt transmission line to the existing Midway Substation in Kern County.

“The proposed project will benefit 73,000 customers on California’s Central Coast and in Central Valley communities,” said Blair Jones, PG&E spokesman.

In February, PG&E introduced its plan to the public with a round of meetings.

It took that feedback and presented a more focused presentation in a new round of meetings this week in Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and California Valley.

Earlier this year, after meeting with local and regional government officials about where it could put a new electric substation, PG&E leaders drew a large circle that included a portion of southern San Luis Obispo County, a portion of eastern Santa Maria and a large swath of northern Santa Barbara County.

After meeting with the public in February, PG&E officials narrowed that region to an area in and around the Sisquoc River Valley, east of Santa Maria. This week’s meetings presented those changes to the public.

PG&E will now focus on that area even more.

The substation study area and transmission line route alternatives were selected based on the proximity to existing transmission lines.

They were prioritized based on a set of criteria, including compatibility with established land uses and infrastructure, effects on agricultural operations and impacts on nearby communities, among other considerations.

"The proposed Central California Power Connect project is a key component of our efforts to meet the electric reliability needs of the region and ensure its economic vitality," said Pat Mullen, regional director of the Los Padres Division for PG&E.

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The transmission line part of the project could be 70 to 100 miles of high-voltage power lines from the existing Midway Substation near Buttonwillow to the proposed substation near Santa Maria.

During February’s round of meetings, the electricity purveyor presented potential power line pathways that were thousands of feet wide. The plan maps displayed in May showed potential lines just 1,000 feet wide.

“The proposed project will provide the system with redundancy, operational flexibility and greater independence to adapt to energy demand, which will help prevent any part of the system from becoming overloaded, especially during the summer when demand for electricity is highest,” PG&E's spokesman Jones said.

“Investments in the power grid will allow us to continue to provide a highly reliable and stable electricity source that meets the needs of our customers.”

It will be many years before PG&E can break ground on any portion of the project.

In the meantime, company officials will continue to meet with local stakeholders and refine the plan.

The project plan will be submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission and the federal government in September 2017.

The CPUC has jurisdiction over this type of transmission project. The federal government will conduct additional environmental reviews and provide opportunities for continued public comment, according to PG&E.

Ultimately, state and federal government officials will make the decision on the substation’s location and the route of the transmission lines.

The project isn’t expected to get underway until 2021.

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Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.


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