North Tahoe electricity upgrade phase powers toward completion |

North Tahoe electricity upgrade phase powers toward completion

Since August, crews have been replacing existing wooden poles with brown self-weathering steel poles and stringing new conductor wire in and around Martis Valley along the east side of Highway 267.
Courtesy Liberty Utilities |

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KINGS BEACH, Calif. — A portion of work to upgrade North Lake Tahoe’s aging and overtaxed transmission lines is anticipated to finish later this month in time for winter’s peak power demand.

Since August, crews have been replacing wooden posts with brown, self-weathering steel poles and installing new lines that can carry greater power flow from Martis Valley to the Northstar Substation, according to Liberty Utilities

Throughout the work, customers have not experienced interruptions in service, according to the company.

“Completion of this first segment from Martis to Northstar shores up the weakest link in the transmission network, and it provides immediate benefit to the whole area,” said Rich Salgo, vice president of operations for Liberty Utilities.

Specifically, improving the reliability of the North Shore portion of Liberty’s system allows it to serve peak winter demand in event of a single component outage, he added.

Prior, the system was reportedly unable to handle certain single component outages, with Liberty having to either manually shut down customers or request voluntary curtailments of service.

Work on the Truckee-to-Kings Beach line (Phase 1) will resume in spring 2016 with upgrades from the Northstar Substation to Kings Beach, Salgo said. Completion is anticipated that year.

Meanwhile, the timing of substation work (Phase 2) will depend on Liberty demonstrating that actual and expected load thresholds exceed system capability, Salgo said.

Such work will allow the line to operate at 120 kilovolts (up from 60 kV), according to Liberty Utilities.

To allow the entire system to operate at 120kV, rebuilding of the transmission line that runs from Tahoe City to Kings Beach (Phase 3) is needed.

According to a previous report, that work isn’t anticipated until 2020 or beyond.

“As the project progresses, each phase gets us closer to providing more reliable service to our customers,” Salgo said.

These lines (650 and 625) are some of the oldest electric lines in California, having been built in 1959 and 1971, respectively, and are experiencing capacity issues, according to Liberty Utilities.

“Right now if something adverse happens to the lines during our customers’ winter peak load season — for any number of reasons — the aging power lines are especially vulnerable,” Mike Smart, president of Liberty Utilities, said in a previous statement. “By upgrading the lines, we significantly increase our ability to improve reliability.”

The estimated $46 million upgrade would increase the North Lake Tahoe Transmission System’s operating capacity, thereby allowing for greater load transfer and switching ability in the event of damage, reducing both the frequency and duration of outages.

The project was approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board, U.S. Forest Service and CPUC despite residents and local officials raising concerns regarding visual and recreation impacts, loss of trees and potential support for future development.

Liberty Utilities purchased NV Energy’s California service territory in early 2011, acquiring the aging lines. The company serves roughly 49,000 customers in and around Lake Tahoe on the California side.

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