The completed Nucla-to-Norwood power line will be the first completed portion of the new 51-mile 115kV power line upgrade since its construction started on June 1. The transmission line project is scheduled to be completed and energized by 2012 and will replace the aging 69kV line between Nucla and Telluride.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association spokesman Jim Van Someren confirmed this week that construction crews were in the Norwood area and nearing completion of the Nucla-Norwood power line, which includes 16 miles of transmission in Montrose County and 3.8 miles in San Miguel County.
Van Someren said a helicopter being operated by a contractor had recently been stringing “soft line” – a rope used to pull the new conductor lines through pulleys attached to power line poles.
“That work was completed last week,” Van Someren said Tuesday. “By the end of this week we are scheduled to have completed the section of the new 115 kilovolt line between Nucla and Norwood.”
Ongoing work during the remainder of the construction season will include trench installation for the underground portions of the line at Specie Mesa and the west end of the West Wilson Mesa.
Power line construction from the Norwood substation to Specie Mesa is expected to take place in 2011 along with the continued installation of the underground cable system on Specie and Wilson mesas.
In 2012, the transmission line from the Sunshine substation to Sunshine Mesa will be constructed as well as finalizing the underground cable system on the mesas. Substation construction will take place at the Sunshine, Wilson and Norwood substations as well as Nucla switchyard modifications.
Construction on the entire project comes after a decade of litigation between Tri-State, the Colorado Public Utility Commission and private homeowners surrounding the upgrade of the outdated 69kV Nucla power line.
Currently, Telluride, Mountain Village and the surrounding areas receive electricity through the primary transmission line, which runs over Coal Bank, Molas and Ophir passes as well as across approximately 300 identified avalanche paths along the way, leaving the region at risk of multi-day power outages during the busy winter ski season.
The 69kV line running from Nucla to Telluride currently serves as a backup to the main power line but is not capable of supporting the region’s power needs during peak winter season and is at the end of its useful life. It is also vulnerable to lightning strikes and is costly to maintain.
The entire transmission line project will cost approximately $56 million with Tri-State paying $7.5 million and $1.2 million coming from the Coalition of Concerned San Miguel County Homeowners. It is estimated that the total cost to underground roughly 10 miles of the line will cost $19 million.
Residents who purchase power from the San Miguel Power Association in eastern portions of San Miguel County now pay a 7.474 percent surcharge on their energy bill, which, over the next 30 years will finance an approximate $10 million loan to cover a portion of the project’s cost.
Tri-State will own and operate the new 115kV line that will replace the 69kV line. The old line will be removed and the new line will be constructed following some of the original alignment.