Thursday, July 16, 2009 | 1:21 p.m.
A plan to build a major transmission line from southern Idaho through eastern Nevada to Las Vegas appeared to gain some momentum Thursday.
Developer LS Power announced it had secured a tentative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the project through economic stimulus provisions.
The Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP), which would travel 500 miles, was originally conceived by LS Power to coincide with plans for a 1600 megawatt coal plant in Ely. The state's monopoly utility, NV Energy, had similar plans for both a coal plant in Ely and transmission lines in the same place to connect northern and southern Nevada power sources.
Both LS Power and NV Energy said earlier this year they would put their coal plants on hold indefinitely. But both companies are still forcefully pushing ahead with plans to build the transmission lines.
Observers say it is unlikely NV Energy will receive approval to build its transmission project, which it calls ON Line, if LS Power begins construction on its lines first.
Creating more transmission lines is seen as one key to spur more renewable energy development across the west. LS Power and the Western Area Power Administration announced they are "moving forward with further detailed evaluation and consideration of a potential partnership" to develop the SWIP transmission project. LS Power plans to start construction later this year and could add two gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid, the company says in the news release.
The Western Area Power Administration is the power marketing administration within the Department of Energy.