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Plant construction generates 350 jobs

West Coast power controller has groundbreaking for 278,000-square-foot facility in Folsom today
By: Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent
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One of the major controllers of electricity on the West Coast is getting ready to put down more permanent roots in Folsom. Today marks the official groundbreaking ceremonies for the new California Independent System Operator’s headquarters building, located along Iron Point Road. The project, costing more than $160 million dollars, focuses around the construction of Cal-ISO’s permanent headquarters, a building more than 278,000 square feet in size. Stephanie McCorkle, director of communications, said that new building “is necessary.” She explained that Cal-ISO has been leasing office space at a Blue Ravine Road business park for a number of years. The company has been in Folsom for about 10 years. “We’ve outgrown the location,” she said. She said Cal-ISO needs space to add such things as a renewable power education center, a media resource center and larger employee workspace. “Security is another issue,” McCorkle said. Cal-ISO, she explained, is a non-profit public-benefit corporation that coordinates, controls and monitors the operation of electrical power. “We also act as a marketplace, if necessary. If we notice a drop in Chico’s power transmission,” she said, “we can buy it from another area, such as a source up in British Columbia.” Cal-ISO is one of eight such corporations in North America, overseeing 200 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually across 26,000 circuit-miles of transmission lines throughout the state. Since the corporation has such an important task, Stephen Berberich, vice president of the corporate services, told the Telegraph last week, “we do have a bullseye painted on us, so to speak.” Essentially, the facility could be a target for those wanting to disrupt the West Coast power supply. Both Berberich and McCorkle said that their company had a number of security requirements that couldn’t be met at the current Blue Ravine Road location. “For example,” Berberich said, “we need a security perimeter fence and a gated entrance that we can control.” The new Iron Point facility, he said, will have that. “And, we’ll be able to expand in other areas too.” Berberich stated that the new facility — which will be completed in March 2011 — will be “unique and have strong connections” to the community. He explained that California ISO purchased more than 30 acres of land near Iron Point Rd. in 2000, as a first step in making its presence in Folsom “permanent.” “We’re all establishing roots here in Folsom,” he said. “We want to keep it that way.” With more than 500 men and women currently working at California ISO itself, McCorkle said that Iron Point construction project will require an additional 350 workers over the two-year project. Clark Construction, she said, is hiring a “number of local subcontractors” to work on the building. Berberich describes the new building as very simple in design and having a low impact on the environment. “The building falls within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) protocols, laid out by the U.S. Green Building Council,” he said. California ISO’s new building has a Gold certification — the second highest certification available through LEED. “Our new building will utilize solar power, natural lighting and will make the best out of available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.” Berberich said. When the building is completed, “it’ll be noticeable but it’s not going to stick out,” he said. He described the architecture as being very “minimalistic.” Aside from the security perimeter fencing and the gated entrance, McCorkle said that the landscaping plans will make use of existing trees and “we’ll be adding a pond and more trees.” “Given Folsom’s history (where a power plant first transmitted power to Sacramento in July 1895), it’s fitting that we are making our home here,” McCorkle said. “The community has given us a lot. As time goes on, we’ll be giving back to the community, helping where ever possible.”