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NV Energy wants to build transmission line from Ely to Las Vegas

If approved, 235-mile line will connect power grids of Northern, Southern Nevada

Updated Monday, March 9, 2009 | 2:06 p.m.

NV Energy announced today it is seeking approval for a 235-mile transmission line that would connect the power grids of Northern and Southern Nevada for the first time.

The company requested permission from the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to build the One Nevada Transmission Line (ON Line), which will run from Ely to the Harry Allen substation located northeast of Las Vegas.

The commission has 135 days to respond to the request, and NV Energy said it tentatively plans to have the line in service by mid-2012.

NV Energy CEO and President Michael Yakira announced last month that plans for a coal-fired plant near Ely had been indefinitely delayed, but said the company remained committed to build the transmission line as a means of enhancing the state’s renewable energy production.

“This transmission line will allow customers to benefit from the abundant renewable resources located all across our state,” Yackira said in a statement. “ON Line will provide the opportunity to keep more renewable energy in Nevada for the benefit of Nevadans, thereby improving the environment and diversifying the economy.”

Yackira said the transmission line will figure heavily into NV Energy’s efforts to comply with a mandate from the Nevada Legislature that 20 percent of the company’s power portfolio come from renewable sources by 2015.

Roberto Denis, senior vice president of energy supply for NV Energy, said the 20 percent standard applies individually to the north and south systems, and because the company has invested heavily in wind and geothermal sources in remote areas of Northern Nevada, it needs a way to share that energy between systems so that both can meet the requirement.

“We’re developing a lot of energy where people are not, so we need to move it around to where it is useful,” he said.

The line will also provide a way for proposed wind farms in Spring Valley and Steptoe Valley to link into the state’s power grid, Denis said.

Denis said the line is a multi-faceted approach to renewable energy in that it will clear the way for future projects while ensuring the efficient distribution of existing projects. Both approaches will be needed, he said, to get the utilities from the nine percent renewable energy standard they reached at the end of 2008 to 20 percent by the end of 2015 (the percentage is calculated at the end of each year).

“I think this line is just absolutely critical to meet the state requirement regarding a renewable energy portfolio,” he said.

Most of the transmission line will be built on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, Denis said. NV Energy had submitted the draft environmental impact statement that is required for projects built on federal land as part of the application for the Ely plant in 2006, he said, but has asked the BLM to separate the transmission line into its own impact statement so that it can move forward.

He said NV Energy should have that statement back before the end of the year.

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