Since the launch of the project in December 2013, PSE has conducted project outreach to hear the community's questions and comments. Below are some common questions we have heard from the community; click on the images to the right to expand for more information. For answers to other frequently asked questions, visit pse.com/energizeeastside.
What will the project look like?
At this point in the process, it is too early to know the exact look of the project. The design phase will begin in 2015, after PSE has selected a route.
PSE anticipates using steel monopoles made of galvanized or weathering steel. Lattice towers will not be used.
Pole heights will range from 85 feet to 130 feet above ground. The exact height will depend on several factors, such as topography, obstacles, wire tension, and span length.
The distance between poles could range from 200 feet to 1,000 feet. In general, the taller the poles, the longer the distance between them.
PSE will be asking the community for feedback on design options after PSE selects a route. Construction is anticipated to start in 2017.
For more information about what the project may look like, please refer to the photo simulations.
How will trees be affected?
PSE’s transmission vegetation management program generally requires removing trees located in the wire zone that have a mature height of more than 15 feet, unless terrain conditions allow 20 feet of clearance between the line and the mature height of the tree.
Trees located within the border zone will typically be trimmed or removed to maintain a clearance of up to 20 feet from the nearest line.
Will Energize Eastside be used to export energy to Canada?
The Energize Eastside project will directly serve local PSE customers.
Like any utility, PSE’s energy infrastructure is part of an interconnected system that carries some “flow-through” power. Between 3 and 8 percent of the energy flowing through the Energize Eastside line will flow through to Canada. This is an unavoidable side effect of being part of an interconnected system.
If power flows through the Energize Eastside lines to Canada or anywhere else, 100 percent of any resulting charges would be credited back to PSE customers in the form of a rate reduction. This is because our customers’ rates include the cost of infrastructure, and our customers should benefit from the sale of electricity to other entities that use that infrastructure.
How is PSE “right-sizing” the project?
The Energize Eastside project is designed to meet the Eastside’s growing need by using the right infrastructure at the right scale.
The project will:
- Upgrade the line to the next incremental step in voltage, from 115 kV to 230 kV
- Increase the conductor diameter from 1.063 inches to 1.545 inches - the size that best meets the capacity needs to serve our Eastside area customers into the future
- Build a new substation to increase the number of 230 kV transformers serving the Eastside area from four to five
The combination of a new substation and new transmission lines will provide enough capacity to meet the Eastside's need for years to come.
Has PSE considered alternative solutions?
PSE studied a variety of alternatives such as reducing demand through continued conservation, increasing the capacity of PSE’s existing electric transmission lines, generating energy locally, and building new infrastructure.
Other alternatives considered:
Using batteries instead of building a substation and transmission lines
- Technology has not been used for the type and scale of problem facing the Eastside
- Would still require new transmission lines
- Would require up to 300 shipping-container sized batteries located on the Eastside just to meet initial demand
- PSE is pursuing a pilot battery project at a much smaller scale
Conservation only: "demand response" and other incentive programs
- Encourage higher-energy use during off-peak hours (i.e., running washing machine late at night instead of during the day)
- Time-of-use rates have been tested by PSE on the Eastside, but were very unpopular
- Does not conserve enough energy to meet project need
Solar power and other generation efforts
- Solar panels don’t generate electricity during peak hours of electricity use (winter mornings and evenings) and can be expensive
- Some homes cannot support the weight of solar panels or do not have the correct orientation
- Other generation efforts would require building a 300 MW power plant and new transmission lines on the Eastside
Can PSE put the lines in the Seattle City Light transmission line corridor?
- We’ve looked into using the Seattle City Light corridor. If it were rebuilt, the corridor could work to meet the Eastside’s energy needs.
- However, Seattle City Light has told PSE that their corridor is a key component of Seattle City Light’s transmission system and not available for PSE’s use.
- PSE prefers to route new transmission lines along existing corridors whenever possible. About 70 percent of the route options we’re considering have existing lower voltage transmission lines along them.
Can you safely put transmission lines near the Olympic Pipeline?
- Safety is always the top priority at PSE.
- Across North America, high voltage electric transmission lines safely coexist with petroleum product pipelines like the Olympic Pipeline.
- PSE has a long history of working closely with Olympic. PSE has shared this corridor with Olympic Pipeline for decades and the two companies have a shared interest in the protection and safe operation of the facilities in the corridor.
- In addition to being your electric provider, PSE is also a natural gas pipeline operator. PSE and its contractors are very familiar with pipeline safety concerns and employ safe construction practices when performing work in the vicinity of pipelines.
Are property values a factor when evaluating route options?
- Property values are comprised of many factors, including economic outlook and location, as well as proximity to jobs, schools, transportation, parks and other amenities.
- PSE does not use property values as a factor when selecting routes out of fairness to and in consideration for customers of all income levels. It is socially inequitable to site infrastructure based on income-related considerations.
- A project’s potential effects on surrounding property values are excluded from consideration of impacts to the environment under Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act.
Can PSE put the lines underground?
- PSE can build underground transmission lines.
- Overhead transmission lines are PSE’s first option for their combination of reliability and affordability – both of which are important to our customers.
- Per state-approved tariff rules, the additional cost to underground a proposed line must be paid for by the group requesting the undergrounding.
- Construction cost comparison
- Overhead: $3 million to $4 million per mile
- Underground: $20 million to $28 million per mile
- Repairs comparison
- Overhead: Typically hours to days
- Underground: Typically days to weeks
- PSE would provide technical support if a community decides to invest in underground lines.
Read more about undergrounding here.
What about electric and magnetic fields (EMF)?
- PSE has looked to the experts for guidance on electric and magnetic fields, or EMF.
- There is a 45-year body of research that does not show that exposure to EMF from transmission lines causes adverse health effects.
- The World Health Organization recently concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level EMF.
Read more about EMF here.