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Quick Fact: OPALCO Needs a New Submarine Cable to Meet Growing Demand

OPALCO’s power supply system from the mainland is currently at capacity during peak usage events such as extreme low winter temperatures. The San Juan Islands, like many remote and rural communities located in scenic locations across the U.S., have experienced a drastic increase in both seasonal and permanent populations. From 2011 to 2021, San Juan County reported a nearly 12% increase in their resident population. This has resulted in unprecedented energy demands. Additionally, the Washington State Ferry (WSF) are transitioning to an emission-free fleet using hybrid electric vessels are scheduled to commence in the early 2030’s. To reach this targeted timeline, the electrification of the WSF fleet will require significant upgrades to the terminals throughout the San Juan Islands.  

 OPALCO seeks to install a redundant 69 kilovolt (kV) submarine transmission cable in an existing route connecting the San Juan Islands to the mainland for power and fiber to meet current and future system capacity needs. The scope of this project is to install a new dielectric armored cable from Anacortes to Decatur and from Decatur to Lopez. This cable will follow the existing cable path used by BPA’s existing two cables. Transmission lines from PSE’s Burrows Bay substation to BPA’s Fidalgo substation as well as the transmission lines on Decatur will need to be upgraded. In addition, substation terminals will need to be upgraded at Burrows Bay (PSE), Fidalgo (BPA), Decatur, and Lopez (BPA) substations. In addition, the cable will include 288 single mode fibers for communications and infrastructure backbone.  

 A channel with deep water habitat, near shore habitat, intertidal marine habitat, and adjacent terrestrial habitats on Lopez Island, Decatur Island, and Anacortes compose this project’s action area. Efforts will be made to avoid or minimize any potential impacts to the environment. Cultural and Environmental evaluations will be used to guide the design and implementation of this project. 

 The goals of this grant opportunity include improved resilience, reduced energy burden and poverty, increased economic resilience and improved environmental performance from energy generation to support public health. This large-scale demonstration would benefit residents, businesses, and visitors to San Juan County. 

 The total estimated cost of the project would be $100 million with construction, permitting, design, and installation.  

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