South County Power Connect
Frequently asked questions
What is South County Power Connect?
This proposed electric infrastructure project will include the construction of a new substation and two new transmission lines, as well as updates to some existing 115 kV transmission lines that serve the region. The project will provide the power grid in southern Santa Clara County with an additional connection to the regional transmission system, increasing the local grid’s capacity and reliability. This will help reduce the risk of local area-wide power outages for our nearly 43,000 electric customers in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and surrounding communities. At this time, the California Independent System Operator, which is responsible for operating and managing California's energy grid, has informed Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) that it is reassessing projects throughout California, including South County Power Connect.
Why are new transmission lines and a new substation needed in this area?
Electric customers in southern Santa Clara County now rely on infrastructure that was built decades ago. Strengthening the power grid helps us meet the needs of the region’s residents and support continued economic vitality. The proposed project will provide the local electric system with greater flexibility and independence to adapt to energy demand in real time, which will help prevent any particular part of the system from becoming overloaded, especially during the summer when demand for electricity is high.
Where will the project be located?
A proposed location for the project has not yet been determined. At this time, the California Independent System Operator, which is responsible for operating and managing California's energy grid, has informed Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) that it is reassessing projects throughout California, including South County Power Connect. The reassessment will focus on the project options PG&E has identified thus far and may consider other energy infrastructure improvements as potential solutions.
When will the project be completed?
The anticipated timeline for the project, including when we will submit the project application to the CPUC, has been delayed and will be reassessed after the CAISO has finished its evaluation. We are unsure how long the reassessment process will take.
What will you do to ensure the safety and security of these facilities?
The security of our facilities is a top priority. We are committed to implementing safety and security measures at the new substation that meet the highest established standards for critical infrastructure protection. These include, but are not limited to, perimeter fencing/gates, lighting and intrusion detection systems.
How will you minimize environmental impacts as a result of this project?
PG&E is dedicated to planning, constructing and operating the project in a manner that minimizes impacts to the environment and local community. When developing projects, we work with applicable local, state and federal agencies, as well as environmental organizations, to ensure the project is planned in a manner that minimizes, and where possible, avoids environmental impacts and complies with applicable standards and requirements. During construction, state-of-the-art equipment will be used to ensure safety and reduce air quality impacts.
What is the cost? Who will pay?
Construction for this project is expected to cost approximately $35 to $45 million. This critical investment will help reduce the risk of local, area-wide power outages for our nearly 43,000 electric customers in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and southern Santa Clara County and promotes a strong commercial environment that attracts and retains job-creating businesses.
As with all regional, high-voltage transmission improvements, the cost of this project will be allocated to most utility customers statewide. Once the project is operational, the impact on overall rates to electric customers would be less than $.01 per month.
What will the substation look like?
We are still early in the planning process and are considering a number of different options for the substation exterior that is visible to the public. The proposed substation is expected to be roughly 6 acres in size and will be located on 8-10 acres of property that will also contain additional transmission line structures connecting the substation to the electric grid. We are dedicated to planning, constructing and operating the project in a manner that minimizes impacts to the environment and local community, and will work to ensure the project is planned in a manner that minimizes, and where possible avoids, environmental impacts.
What will the project look like?
We are still early in the planning process and are considering a number of different options for the new transmission lines and substation. We have not yet determined whether we will use towers or poles for the new transmission lines and are seeking input from the community on structure preferences to minimize impacts. The proposed substation is expected to be roughly 6 acres in size and located on 8-10 acres that will have additional structures to connect the substation to the electric grid. The full size of the property parcels we are currently studying range from about 20 to 60 acres. We are considering a number of options to help minimize the substation’s visual impact, including barriers, such as walls and fences, and landscaping with various arrangements of native, drought resistant vegetation.
How were potential substation sites determined and transmission corridors refined?
PG&E is dedicated to minimizing impacts to the environment and local community. Our process includes a comprehensive community outreach program and thorough assessment of environmental issues. Prior to CAISO’s reassessment, potential sites were identified based on their proximity to existing transmission lines and the following considerations:
- Impacts to local communities;
- Conflicts with established infrastructure and land uses;
- Effects on agricultural operations;
- Sensitive resource and habitat areas;
- Cost considerations;
- Length of new transmission line; and
- Constructability and engineering conflicts.
The corridors we presented to the public earlier this year have been refined based on the substation site options, community input and information gathered from field studies. Refined corridors were designed to minimize the length of new transmission line and the number of structures in areas where no electric infrastructure is present. The CAISO and PG&E staff will work together to determine whether the proposed project or other energy infrastructure improvements are the best way to meet the region’s current and projected energy needs.
How will you address community concerns regarding electric and magnetic fields?
PG&E recognizes customer concern about the issue of Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) from power lines and substations and is committed to complying with the CPUC's EMF policies. It is important to remember that we live with EMF every day. EMF is present wherever there is electric current and can be found in homes, offices and schools – or anywhere an electric current is present. With that being said, protecting the health and safety of the local community is of the utmost importance to the project team. South County Power Connect will fully comply with the CPUC's EMF policies, which are the most proactive in the United States and continue to be supported by scientific research. PG&E provides free magnetic field measurements upon request, EMF health literature and support for EMF research. For more information on EMF, please visit our EMF page.
What are the next steps?
The California Independent System Operator, which is responsible for operating and managing California's energy grid, is currently reassessing projects throughout California, including South County Power Connect. The CAISO’s reassessment will ensure the proposed project meets current electric demand forecasts and minimizes costs to customers. The reassessment will focus on the project options PG&E has identified thus far and may consider other energy infrastructure improvements as potential solutions. We are unsure how long this process will take.
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