HOUSTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Pattern Energy Group LP said part of its 265-megawatt Ocotillo Wind project in Southern California began commercial operation in December, becoming the first renewable power to connect to the $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, the company said.
Pattern said 94 of Ocotillo's 112 turbines are operational and producing power for Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric utility under a 20-year contract. The remaining 18 turbines will be installed this spring, Pattern said.
"The Ocotillo site has the strongest winds in the Imperial Valley which results in attractive energy prices for San Diego County residents," said Mike Garland, chief executive of San Francisco-based Pattern Energy.
Once fully operational, Ocotillo Wind will provide enough renewable energy to supply about 100,000 homes.
The project uses Siemens 2.37-MW turbines, including American-made Siemens wind towers, blades and nacelles.
Ocotillo is Pattern's sixth wind project, bringing the company's total wind output to more than 1,000 MW.
Michael Niggli, SDG&E president, said the Ocotillo project is the first of more than a half dozen renewable power projects in Imperial County that will connect to the Sunrise Powerlink.
The 500-kilovolt, 117-mile transmission line completed in June, was designed to move renewable power from California's Imperial Valley to San Diego. It took five years to permit and 18 months to build.
Final work was accelerated to get the line energized ahead of the summer peak to bolster grid reliability in Southern California which faced a generation shortfall due to the extended outage of the Edison International's San Onofre nuclear station, located half-way between San Diego and Los Angeles.
An SDG&E spokeswoman said the line is carrying about 800 megawatts and will eventually carry 1,000 megawatts. The utility has eight contracts with renewable projects that will connect to the Sunrise Powerlink, including seven solar projects and another wind project.
Four solar projects are under construction, the spokeswoman said.
Wind and solar power from the Imperial Valley area will help SDG&E meet California's goal for utilities to use renewable power for 33 percent of their supply.