Douglas County PUD is working replace transmission lines to accommodate an extremely heavy load of power Microsoft will require for its new data center. 

The process will require a $25,000 prepayment to the Bonneville Power Administration for design, material and labor so the Administration can make upgrades at its Valhalla Switchyard. 

"Our transmission lines interconnect with their Valhalla substation, and that needs to be upgraded, and so that would be their responsibility to do that," said Douglas County PUD spokesperson Meaghan Vibbert. 

Bonneville Power is a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Energy, which supplies power to utilities in the region that don’t have hydropower dams. 

The project to compensate for Microsoft’s demand also includes replacing the transmission lines between Bonneville Power's Valhalla Switchyard in Malaga and the PUD's Rapids Switchyard in Rock Island. 

Vibbert says they've conducted studies that show Microsoft's level of power use could strain the existing transmission lines. 

"That could cause overloading issues on that line, depending on if other lines were taken out for maintenance, or if there was a system outage, or something like that," Vibbert said. "And so, we're increasing the capacity on that line to better accommodate for those contingencies." 

Douglas PUD commissioners last month approved staff to start collecting bids for the project, which is being described as "big."  

In addition to new transmission lines, the PUD will install new power poles to handle the extra load. 

The electrical power flowing through the lines is interconnected between Douglas PUD, Chelan PUD, Grant PUD and Bonneville Power, in addition to the new load being required for Microsoft. 

The cost for the entire project will be reimbursed by Microsoft as part of its Interconnection and Service Agreement with the Douglas PUD.  

The tech giant has a maximum connected load of 180 MW. 

Douglas PUD is not supplying the power because Microsoft’s heavy demand would absorb a lot of power the PUD normally sells on the open market to generate additional revenue. 

The utility will continue, however, to supply infrastructure and transmission lines for Micrsoft’s data center, and has assisted in securing a third-party power supplier. 

Microsoft’s power sales contract went into effect the first week of January. 

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