Kirkwood connecting to the power grid |

Kirkwood connecting to the power grid

by Dylan Silver
A trencher digs a trench to lay conduit to connect the Kirkwood Community with the power grid. The project is expected to be completed in November 2014.
Provided to the Tribune |

Those random lift stoppages at Kirkwood Mountain Resort may be a thing of the past. A project is under way to connect the rural Alpine County resort and surrounding community to the electrical grid.

“Power will definitely be consistent and reliable,” said Sandy McKay, out-valley project coordinator for Kirkwood Meadows Public Utility District. “The only time it will go down will be when PG&E has a problem.”

Crews have began laying a 25-mile-long underground transmission line from Bear River Reservoir to Kirkwood. That line will be connected to the existing PG&E Salt Springs-Tiger Creek substation and through two new substations. The entire project is estimated to cost $30 million and is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Loan.

The project will improve the air quality, reduce emissions and help stabilize rates for customers, according to a document released by KMPUD.

In the past, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, the ski area’s lifts and the housing in the area have been run on diesel generators. After the project is finished in November 2014, the generators will move to a redundant role in case of power outages, McKay said.

The district is not sure if the new power source will increase or decrease rates for residents of the area, McKay said.

Without a grid connection, prices for power in the area fluctuated with the cost of diesel. Opponents of the project argued that the rates would be higher because the utility district would be forced to take on massive debt.

Currently, crews are digging trenches alongside Highway 88 and laying conduit, through which the power cables and fiber optic lines will be run next summer. The work has not been easy so far, McKay said.

“The contractor has encountered a variety of challenging terrain and is trenching through solid rock, medium size boulders, gravel and soils to reach the required depth,” McKay said.