Cascadia's newest highway

The reliability of service to millions of electricity consumers from Puget Sound to Portland improved significantly with the completion of the 84-mile-long, 500-kV Grand Coulee–Bell transmission line (Figure 4). The new path removes a major bottleneck between Spokane and Grand Coulee Dam and points west.

4. Breaking the bottleneck. The Bonneville Power Administration’s 84-mile, 500-kV Grand Coulee–Bell transmission line relieves congestion between Spokane and the Grand Coulee Dam and points west. It was BPA’s biggest transmission project in nearly 20 years.
Courtesy: Bonneville Power Administration

The Grand Coulee–Bell line was the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA’s) largest transmission project in nearly 20 years and one of the largest in the nation. "Grand Coulee–Bell is a major accomplishment in this administration’s effort to improve the reliability of our national energy infrastructure," said Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy Bruce Carnes.

BPA Administrator Steve Wright said the project, which took more than two years to complete, came in 30 days ahead of schedule and $16 million under budget. The total cost of the project, including line and substation work, was $159 million. The new line was built mostly on an existing right-of-way, with state-of-the-art methods to protect the environment and reduce visual impacts.

"With the completion of the Kangley– Echo Lake Line east of Seattle last year and this project now, we’ve greatly strengthened reliability in the Puget Sound area," said Wright. "These lines are keeping the lights and heat on this winter in our homes while ensuring reliable electricity service to Northwest industry."

Wright said the project is a prime example of BPA’s use of federal borrowing authority for necessary infrastructure improvements. It connects Bell Substation in Spokane to the substation at Grand Coulee Dam, thereby relieving a choke point in the flow of power from east to west. Economic growth along the Interstate 5 corridor and the construction of new generators east of the Cascades make such projects vital to maintaining reliability, Wright added.

Mark Korsness, BPA project manager, said the new line and associated substation work, plus work performed by Spokane-based Avista Utilities, has allowed BPA to re-rate the carrying capacity of the West of Hatwai transmission system from 2,800 MW to 4,300 MW. Power began flowing on the line last December 1.

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