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Feb 7 (Reuters) - Swiss-Swedish multinational engineering company ABB Ltd won an order worth around $260 million from the U.S.-owned Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to upgrade a major power transmission station in Oregon.
The Celilo high voltage direct current (HVDC) converter station, located near the Columbia River, is an important part of the electricity link between the Pacific Northwest and Southern California that was commissioned more than 40 years ago in 1970, ABB said in a statement Wednesday.
The Celilo converter is located at the north end of the Pacific DC Intertie, also known as Path 65, which has a capacity of 3,100 megawatts (MW). The Pacific Intertie runs south about 850 miles (1,367 kilometers) to the Sylmar converter station north of Los Angeles.
The Pacific DC transmits electricity from the Pacific Northwest to as many as 3 million households in the greater Los Angeles area.
ABB said key components of the station upgrade include valves, controls and transformers as well as switchgear and cooling equipment. ABB already carried out a similar upgrade of the Sylmar converter station in 2004.
In addition to modernizing the converter, ABB said the upgrade will make it feasible to boost capacity up to 3,800 MW.
That extra power could help Southern California keep the lights on in future years should the San Onofre nuclear plant remain shut due to problems with new steam generators. Both San Onofre reactors have been shut since January 2012.
Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International and the operator of San Onofre, hopes federal nuclear regulators over the next few months approve the company's plan to return one of the reactors at less than full power.
During the winter, the north consumes a lot of power for heating while the south requires less; but in the summer, demand is reversed, with more power needed in the south for cooling. The Pacific Intertie allows power to flow between the Northwest and Southern California to help balance supply with demand.
ABB said it booked the order in the fourth quarter of 2012.
BPA is the part of the U.S. Department of Energy that markets wholesale power from federal hydro projects in the Columbia River Basin with a combined capacity of over 20,400 MW and the nonfederal 1,097-MW Columbia nuclear plant in Washington State.
The federal dams are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The nuclear plant is operated by public power company Energy Northwest.
About a third of the power used in the Northwest comes from BPA.
BPA also operates about three-fourths of the high-voltage transmission in its territory, which includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington and parts of Montana, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.