Green Light For Cross-Border Power Line Between U.S. and Mexico

These mountains in Baja California may soon be covered with wind turbines | Photo: Hector Lecuanda/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Department of Energy announced Friday that the Obama administration has given the go-ahead to connecting wind turbines in Baja to the U.S. grid. According to Friday's Federal Register, the administration has granted "a Presidential permit to Energía Sierra Juárez U.S. Transmission, LLC (ESJ), to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a double-circuit, 230,000-volt (230-kV) electric transmission line across the U.S.-Mexico border in eastern San Diego County, California." The line would be 1.7 miles long, less than a mile of which will be in the U.S.

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The line would connect the Sunrise Powerlink to the Energía Sierra Juárez wind project near the town of La Rumorosa in northern Baja California. That project, owned by San Diego Gas and Electric's parent company Sempra, is slated to include an initial 52 wind turbines generating 156 megawatts of power for importation into the U.S.

The transmission project has raised opposition due to its contribution to the increasing industrialization of San Diego County's backcountry, but most opposition to date has been focused on the wind project to which the power line connects. The 2009 application for the Energía Sierra Juárez project to Mexico's environmental ministry, Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales described a proposed 700,000-acre footprint with 1,000 wind turbines each producing 1.25 megawatts and more than 500 miles of roads running among them. The Sierra Juárez mountains are considered a "sky island" in the northern Baja desert, with thick conifer forests and a high level of biodiversity.

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