July 13, 2004
Arizona Public Service Co. is scouting sites in and near Scottsdale for another north East Valley power substation, putting local environmental watchdogs on alert.
Growing demand for electrical power in the area is prompting the utility company to plan construction of at least one facility of 10 to 15 acres and run another set of power lines cross a wide swath of north Scottsdale.
The installation would cost about $10 million, said Steve Goodman, a project manager for the APS transmission facilities siting department.
City officials and activists are gearing up to scrutinize APS plans closely because the power lines likely would run through land the city wants to add to its McDowell Sonoran Preserve or one or more of Scottsdale’s designated "scenic corridor’’ areas.
One location being eyed for the substation is close to the proposed preserve boundary near Dynamite Boulevard and 136th Street.
"We have a lot of questions, one being whether there will be the demand for a substation this big,’’ said Bob Vairo, president of the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak residents group.
"None of us would like to see more power lines, especially through the preserve or along Pima Road, which is one of the city’s scenic corridors. That would alarm a whole lot of people,’’ Vairo said.
APS officials have invited Scottsdale officials, preservation advocates and leaders of some residents’ groups to a closed company meeting to examine reasons for planning a new substation and to discuss the most feasible places to build it.
Demand is being driven by more than population growth.
The larger homes being built in the area are resulting in more power use per household than elsewhere in the Valley, Goodman said.
"People are using a lot more energy than we originally thought they would, with those bigger homes,’’ he said.
The utility is aware of heightened environmental concerns, Goodman said.
"We want to get everything on the table because we know it will be very difficult to do in this area, with Scottsdale’s preserve there.’’ he said.
"Nobody wants (another power station) anywhere out there, so it’s a challenge,’’ said Ed Fox, chief of environmental affairs for APS.
More power distribution capacity will be necessary even if Scottsdale is able to acquire much of the area for its open-space preserve, said Scottsdale senior planner Don Hadder.
APS still must meet increasing demand in communities adjoining Scottsdale, including Cave Creek, Carefree and the unincorporated Maricopa County areas of Rio Verde and Tonto Verde, Hadder said.
How much additional power will be required in the north East Valley could determine whether new utility lines can be run underground or on overhead towers, he said.
A power tower corridor already runs through some of the land targeted for preservation.
Utilities could be granted expanded right-of-way to add lines, Hadder said.
"This is a new blip on the radar screen’’ for preservation supporters, said Howard Myers, one of Scottsdale’s preserve commissioners. "We need to start getting answers about what’s really needed to serve this area.’’