California's first transmission project built specifically for moving renewable power has completed its first phase.

The initial segment of Southern California Edison's Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project will provide 700 megawatts of clean energy to its customers.

Ultimately, the infrastructure will move 4,500 megawatts of electricity from wind, solar and other alternative sources from Tehachapi Valley to approximately 3 million homes across Los Angeles County. The final price tag for the 173 miles of updated grid is slated to approach $2 billion.

"Our bold and innovative policies have made California a world leader in renewable energy, green jobs and environmental protection, and this project is tangible evidence that we are fulfilling our renewable energy promise," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "This year alone, there are two dozen renewable energy projects looking to break ground that will create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment in our state. Many of these projects will be built in remote locations so we need transmission lines, just like the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, to bring the clean electricity to the cities where people live and work."

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia are requiring their utilities to increase the amount of renewable electricity they provide to customers.

Last December the California Public Utilities Commission approved segments 4 through 11 of the project. Construction is set to begin later this year, although it is still pending final approval from federal land agencies. If approved, it is scheduled to be operational in 2015.

This project is part of $5.5 billion that SCE is expected to spend on the transmission grid over the next 5 years. The Tehachapi Project, when completed, will be key in easing the transmission congestion into the LA basin and helping to meet California's mandate that renewable energy account for one-third of customer's energy supply by 2020.

The full price tag of laying transmission lines for renewable energy is estimated at $15.7 billion by California legislators. If distributed power seems like an obvious fix compared to the high cost of new infrastructure, a report last year by California Public Utilities Commission found that small-scale projects would potentially be more expensive.

The problem of bringing renewable power, and in particular wind, online is not unique to California. A recent report by the American Wind Energy Association called for both a national Renewable Electric Standard and infrastructure updates to connect nearly 300,000 megawatts of proposed wind projects that are waiting for interconnection to the electric grid.

Tags: socal edison, southern california edison, tehachapi, transmission grid, transmission lines, wind energy