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$100 million power project for Lodi

Proposed project could help with reliability of power in Lodi and slow future rate hike, Electric Utility director Liz Kirkley says

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Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:00 am

A $100 million power project was revealed Tuesday to help keep the Lodi area factories humming and iPhone chargers charging.

Under early plans, the city and Pacific Gas and Electric Company would share costs for improvements that would essentially allow electricity to flow into and around Lodi at much higher voltages.

Construction would begin in 2014 and be completed in 2017, said Liz Kirkley, Lodi’s electric utility director.

Why should Lodi ratepayers care? If all goes well, the project would help provide a more stable source of electricity and allow the city to avoid millions in so-called access fees.

Members of the Lodi City Council were introduced to this project at a morning study session. It’s one of 36 projects required by the California Independent System Operator corporation, the overseer of companies like Pacific Gas & Electric and Lodi’s own electric utility, to keep power more stable across the state.

Here’s the project: PG&E is building a new switching station on a large plot on the corner of Guild Avenue and Thurman Street, south of Lodi Avenue. It will go next to the Industrial Substation, one of four in Lodi.

The city will buy and install two new 230,000-volt transformers to get the power from the main grid and drop it into a useable form for Lodians. Those transformers are connected to both the existing substation and the new switching station.

Along with the work in Lodi, PG&E will install new 230,000 volt powerlines stretching from a substation on Eight Mile Road near Interstate 5 to another south of Lockeford, going through the improved Lodi substation. That means taking out miles of powerlines and installing new ones.

“We’re building not just for Lodi, but to reinforce the backbone for the area,” said Mike Keller, an independent consultant for the project from Mike Keller Consulting LLC.

The large voltage means increasing Lodi’s capacity to 200 megawatts per hour, up from 130 currently. More space means fewer blackouts, too. Lodi has had four citywide blackouts in the last seven years.

But how does the change in voltage help Lodi ratepayers?

Right now, Lodi pays $5.5 million a year in transmission access charges. This money goes back to the ISO for statewide electrical infrastructure improvements, the cost of which is spread like peanut butter among all electricity customers in California, said Keller.

Switching to the 230,000-volt lines is a way to drop those charges to $3 million a year.

The city can use the $2.5 million to help ease rate increases for Lodi customers. That perk will kick in once the project is paid for.

Lodi will pay $20 million to cover the two transformers and the cost of connections to the substation. The rest will be paid for by PG&E.

Councilman Larry Hansen pointed out environmental concerns have not been addressed, so the timeline might not be confirmed.

Right now, the project is in development. Kirkley is working to create a project team by the end of 2014, which is subject to approval by the city council. Construction will be complete by June 2017.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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