The Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 on Dec. 2 to approve the 500-kilovolt Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP), a proposed 234-mile, $350 million transmission line that would link the power grids in Northern and Southern Nevada for the first time, opening the door for more wind, geothermal and solar energy developments.
The merchant transmission line would cross about 47 miles of White Pine County, continuing south through Nye, Lincoln and Clark counties. The southern portion of SWIP would extend from a substation proposed to be built on Robison Summit just south of U.S. Hwy. 50 to the Harry Allen Substation 20 miles north of Las Vegas.
Backers of the transmission line say SWIP would improve reliability and allow NV Energy’s customers in Las Vegas access to power from now proposed wind farms in White Pine County and geothermal energy produced in Northern Nevada.
A future phase of the project would extend the line from the proposed substation on Robison Summit to a substation near Burley, Idaho. Idaho Power sought an environmental impact statement for SWIP during the 1990s and the BLM issued a right of way at that time.
During the RPC meeting, Papez said there is a possibility that Great Basin Transmission could begin the construction phase in 2009, but that depends on whether the company acquires enough customers and then obtains financing.
Construction would take between 12 and 18 months. The company anticipates four-to-six construction crews with four to 40 workers in each crew.
“It would be foreseeable that the transmission line could be operational by late 2010,” Papez told the RPC. “It’s been a long time coming and we’re nearing the end of a long permitting process,” he said.
“It remains to be seen whether there are sufficient participants in order for them (Great Basin Transmission) to get their financing. So in the meantime we’re moving forward,” he said.
Sims said multiple transmission lines could be permitted and coexist if there are sufficient wind and geothermal customers.
Babcock & Brown, an Australian international investment and advisory company with its U.S. base of operations in San Francisco, has proposed to build a wind farm on a 12,000-acre site about 30 miles east of Ely in Spring Valley that is largely managed by the BLM. In February, Babcock & Brown expressed interest in NV Energy’s proposed transmission line.
Nevada’s potential green energy mix includes wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other small-scale clean energy developments. This state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard includes that 20 percent of energy must come from renewable sources by 2015 with a minimum of 5 percent from solar energy. A quarter of the 20 percent may be accomplished with savings from energy conservation.
There are small geothermal developments located in Elko County and near Reno. NV Energy says it will spend more than $2 billion on renewable projects by 2015.