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PUD plans for new electrical substation to handle industrial buildings

Scappoose’s growth over the past three years has been most visible in new industrial, retail and residential construction, but plans for a new electric substation may be one of the biggest indicators of the city’s rapid expansion.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A substation in the Dutch Canyon area of Scappoose is one of two the city currently relies on for power provided by the Columbia River PUD. The PUD is planning for a third substation in the city.Columbia River People’s Utility District is eyeing property near West Lane Road in Scappoose as the site for a new substation to increase the available power supply near Scappoose Indistrial Airpark, which is seeing a spate of new development.

A nearly 600,000-square-foot Cascades Tissue plant is currently under construction, a new Portland Community College training center is slated for development nearby, and the forthcoming Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center will operate out of a site directly across from the new Cascades plant.

The onslaught of industrial development means substantial load growth for the PUD, which services Scappoose.

Last week, the PUD’s board of directors authorized the district’s general manager to begin property negotiations for the West Lane Road site, and enter a sales agreement subject to board approval.

“It’s a no-brainer,” PUD Director Craig Melton said before voting to authorize the first steps toward property acquisition.

The last time the district built a substation was at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in St. Helens. The property was purchased in 2008, but the site wasn’t energized and brought online until 2015. The newest substation in Scappoose could be completed on a similar timeline, depending on costs and power needs.

“Typically with these projects we go a little bit slower,” Libby Calnon, communications director for the PUD, explained. “We try to put them out into the planning horizon so we can budget for them.”

Using money from its cash reserves, the PUD expects to pay fair market price for new property, but anticipating the exact cost of the new substation can be tricky. Fluctuations in gas, oil and copper prices can heavily impact the cost of a new transformer, Calnon said, but based on project costs at the fairgrounds, the PUD can expect to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million for land, supplies and construction.

Calnon said the PUD plans to have a site purchased in Scappoose sometime in 2017.

“We narrowed it down to a preferred site because it’s on the same side as the PGE transmission line,” Calnon said, noting the proximity to the existing transmission line makes it much easier to deliver power to nearby customers.

Scappoose currently relies on a substation near Dutch Canyon and another one by East Columbia Avenue. The PUD quickly began planning for its third substation over the summer, after it was announced that several large-scale industrial projects were headed to Scappoose within a short timeframe. That’s in addition to new housing development throughout the city.

“The PCC campus, the Cascades Tissue facility, and the OMIC project weren’t on anybody’s radar a year ago,” Calnon said. “Those projects have come up pretty quickly. We want to make sure that we can respond.”

The new substation will likely use a 25-megawatt transformer, operated at a 15-megawatt capacity, which is enough to power 4,875 homes.

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