Long-awaited completion of Nucla-Sunshine transmission line is celebrated

Kevin Ritter, San Miguel Power Association general manager, spoke to the collaborative effort of all parties involved in bringing the Nucla-Sunshine line to fruition.

Kevin Ritter, San Miguel Power Association general manager, spoke to the collaborative effort of all parties involved in bringing the Nucla-Sunshine line to fruition.

A transmission line that takes three years to construct and nearly five times that long to conceive, debate, plan and engineer certainly deserves to be celebrated when it is finally electrified into service. Such was the occasion for a March 26 reception in Mountain Village, Colo., recognizing the completion this past November of the 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine project.

The critical line provides an improved level of service and reliability to the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village and other nearby communities in the southwestern Colorado service territory of Tri-State member co-op San Miguel Power Association.

“I remember hearing about a new power line when my son was born – and that was 15 years ago,” said an only half-joking San Miguel county commissioner Joan May, who joined other local elected officials and representatives from SMPA and Tri-State at the afternoon event at Mountain Village Town Hall.

Telluride mayor Stu Fraser noted the urgency for a more reliable redundant power source that grew out of a 2004 avalanche that wiped out the area’s primary 115-kv line. “We said at the time that we can’t let this happen again,” Fraser said, who estimated that the outage caused by that avalanche cost his resort town approximately $250,000 in lost revenue.

The 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine transmission line was built over the past three years and energized this past November.

The 51-mile, 115-kilovolt Nucla-Sunshine transmission line was built over the past three years and energized this past November.

Tri-State vice president/transmission Joel Bladow spoke to the “difficult technical challenges” involved with planning and constructing the line, while SMPA general manager Kevin Ritter discussed the critical collaboration that took place among the utilities, local government jurisdictions and various stakeholders. Other speakers at the reception included Mountain Village mayor Dan Jansen and San Miguel board president Rube Felicelli.

The line is unique to Tri-State’s transmission system in that approximately 10 miles of the power cable was placed underground to satisfy landowners’ concerns. Those concerns and other siting issues delayed the construction of the project for more than a decade.

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