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THE TIELINE TURNS 20: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ‘EXTENSION CORD’ THAT WENT TO SEA

04/24/2007 ~ Keys Energy Services (KEYS) will mark the 20th anniversary of the transmission line (or “tieline), and the day KEYS customers were interconnected in to the mainland power grid, on May 8, 2007.

The story of the tieline began in the late 1970s when three engineering reports recommended interconnecting to the mainland power grid for greater reliability of electrical service. KEYS, doing business as City Electric System at the time, went to the Key West City Commission for approval of a $50 million bond issuance and approached the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative (FKEC) for an agreement to interconnect to the mainland via their transmission lines (from Marathon to the mainland). The Key West City Commission granted approval of the bond issuance in November 1980, but negotiations with the FKEC proved to be more of a challenge and were not finalized until 1985.

While negotiations were under way with the FKEC, KEYS began moving forward with construction of the 138-kilovolt transmission line from Key West to Marathon.

On May 8, 1987, KEYS’ tieline to the mainland power grid began operation. Employees Frank Cartonia and Richard Castillo stood by at the Big Pine Key Substation, while Terry O’Dell, one of the then new Power System Coordinators, coordinated with Cartonia and Castillo to energize the tieline at 1:56 p.m. and interconnect KEYS customers to the mainland power grid.

During the 1988 fiscal year, the first full year operating with the tieline, ratepayers saved $3,932,209 compared to what they would have paid had the electricity been completely generated locally by the utility.

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