Tehachapi Renewable Transmission ProjectRight now, the majority of power in southern California comes from traditional generation stations that burn coal and natural gas. Yet as the state increasingly backs renewable energy, power companies are changing their focus, implementing projects that will transmit renewable energy to their customers.

Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy comes from infinite, though intermittent, sources like sun and wind. The trick is to harness these renewable sources for full day-to-day power needs. That's where we come in.

Our southern California offices have teamed up with two of California's biggest energy companies, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, to oversee large-scale projects that install new transmission lines and substations in order to deliver renewable power to the grid.

As part of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, for example, Southern California Edison has partnered with Burns & McDonnell to create new transmission lines that will deliver renewable energy from wind farms in Kern and Los Angeles counties. Not only does this project align with the state legislature's mandate that 33 percent of California's power come from renewable energy sources by 2020, but the work also corresponds with Southern California Edison's ongoing commitment to pursue increased usage of renewable sources that will reduce the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

For our employees at Burns & McDonnell, these projects represent invaluable opportunities to provide the depth and experience needed to successfully complete some of the more difficult construction management assignments occurring throughout the country. We're invested in delivering results that benefit all involved parties.

What does this mean for consumers? Although shifting our collective reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources bodes well for our ongoing sustainability and improved environmental footprint, the current energy landscape presents several consumer obstacles. Electric rates will likely increase, as will taxes, because renewable power sources are still being implemented on a small scale and are artificially valued above market via state-provided tax subsidies. It also means decisions are made that balance the general interest in renewable energy with the more personal interest of property value and the visual impacts of these facilities.

Helping to educate consumers about these changes is part of the collective responsibility of utility companies, as well as partners like Burns & McDonnell. One way we aim to do this is to get engineers involved. We want to challenge them to come up with innovative ways to communicate to consumers exactly what the Smart Grid is and why it matters. And why not have a little fun at the same time? If video is your game, check out the video contest we're running on YouTube. Sure, there's plenty of fame and glory to be had for the winner. But the submitted videos are also important tools for helping boost consumer understanding about the Smart Grid and what the future electrical evolution holds for all of us.

Projects like TRTP and the Sunrise Powerlink Project are critical steps forward in alleviating the transmission congestion that has become a pressing issue for southern California, reducing the pressure on an outdated power system that's struggling to keep pace with demand. For consumers, that means more reliable power in your home on a day-to-day basis. On a larger scale, these sophisticated power systems will assist with an improved allocation of resources, delivering power from more sources with greater reliability. An increased reliance on renewable energy also means a more impressive transfer of resources. Just think — the power you use in your home could be coming from a wind farm that's several hundred miles away. Utility companies that opt to invest in renewable energy sources and new transmission infrastructure now are positioning themselves — and their customers — for growth that's not just smart — it's sustainable. And we're thrilled to be involved in opportunities that help make this energy evolution a reality.

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