Committee: Lines should link renewable energy in Nevada

CARSON CITY — A governor’s committee recommended Thursday that power companies spend about $3 billion on transmission lines to carry renewable energy potential available in rural Nevada to existing transmission lines.

The Nevada Renewable Energy Transmission Access Advisory Committee proposed companies use tax-exempt state bonds to pay for the cost of constructing lines to transmit a potential 7,500 megawatts of renewable energy.

In a report delivered to Gov. Jim Gibbons, the committee said it has identified energy zones in Nevada that could produce more than 5,000 megawatts of solar, 1,000 megawatts of wind and 1,500 megawatts of geothermal power. Most of the renewable energy is available in the central part of the state and some is a considerable distance from existing transmission lines.

The 7,500 megawatts of power is about the combined record peak that NV Energy delivered in the summer of 2007 to its customers in both Northern and Southern Nevada.

“This will make Nevada the Texas of renewable energy,” said Gibbons of the study recommendations. “I believe Nevada is now well-positioned (for the future) by what you have done.”

Renewable energy will be to Nevada’s future what gaming was to the state’s past, he added.

The governor said renewable energy now costs more than coal- or oil-fired electricity but that costs will decline in coming years and that it will be a dependable source of power in the future.

Using the tax-exempt bonds, he added, will reduce the cost to consumers. None of the committee members could answer how much more rate-payers will pay for electricity if the lines are constructed.

Thomas Fair, renewable energy executive for NV Energy, said that is difficult to calculate today because it is not known what energy projects will be developed.

Many of the transmission lines proposed by the committee could be used for NV Energy’s Southern Nevada customers.

For example, the committee said it would cost $580 million to construct transmission lines from the Harry Allen power plant, north of Las Vegas, that would run largely parallel to U.S. Highway 95. The lines would stretch through the Goldfield area to Fort Churchill in Lyon County and on to Dixie Valley, east of Fallon.

Gibbons said that much of the state’s geothermal power is now sold to California companies. He said Nevada now spends $1 billion on energy it imports.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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