Edison's renewable energy plan awaits green light from FAA

A Southern California Edison plan to bring more renewable energy to the Southland is in a temporary holding pattern as the utility waits for Federal Aviation Administration clearance to allow helicopters to buzz over La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena.

Edison had hoped to begin stringing new power lines along local towers this month to accommodate electricity from wind farms near Tehachapi. Edison spokeswoman Marissa Castro-Salvati said workers are still waiting for final approval from the FAA and hope to get an update next week.

“There are two airports that are kind of close by, El Monte and Burbank,” she said. “Even though we're not flying so high … we need those types of clearances.”

The transmission line along the foothills is part of a longer line that will connect to a 201-megawatt wind farm project near Tehachapi.

Castro-Salvati said the approvals process was particularly complex for this project because it involves work near Angeles Crest Highway — a state highway — as well as private property in La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena.

Edison will install new power poles and towers, and will run new transmission lines from the Gould Substation, near Starlight Crest Drive in La Cañada, to the Goodrich Substation in Pasadena. The job has to be done by helicopters, Castro-Salvati said.

“You can't bring in certain vehicles. The terrain is hard and the towers are high,” she said. “So they reel it up, almost like a fishing pole.”

Edison had initially expected to complete construction by Nov. 30, but now it has no firm timeline.

Castro-Salvati said the project is crucial for Edison, which under state law must obtain 33% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

“It's more renewable energy to provide to our customers,” she said. “And it's one of the largest wind energy projects that's being built.”

Edward Hitti, La Cañada's director of Public Works, said that because the majority of the project takes place in Edison's easement, the city is focused on making sure the impact of the helicopters is minimal.

He expressed confidence that Edison will handle the work as unobtrusively as possible.

“Whether from noise or safety, they've done it in other cities, and as part of the project they have the professional people who do that work,” he said.

Starlight Crest Drive resident Robert Bender questioned whether meeting renewable energy requirements is as important as Edison upgrading its existing infrastructure, but said he wasn't too concerned about the choppers. “It's just another noise,” he said.

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