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Regulators approve 234-mile electrical power connection

State regulators on Tuesday moved LS Power a step closer to building a 234-mile, $350 million transmission line that would directly connect the state’s electric utilities in Southern and Northern Nevada for the first time.

The Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 without debate to approve the Southwest Intertie Project.

Great Basin Transmission, which is owned by a joint venture of LS Power of New Brunswick, N.J., and Houston-based Dynegy, proposes to build the transmission line.

The 500-kilovolt power line would run from a power substation 18 miles northwest of Ely to the Harry Allen Substation 20 miles north of Las Vegas. The commission noted that the line would improve electric reliability, create new jobs, boost tax revenue, help promote new renewable energy development and potentially lower electricity costs.

“We’re thrilled with the order that was approved today by the commission,” said Mark Milburn, project development director for LS Power. “We think this is a major step forward for Nevada for bringing renewables on line to consumers and reliability and cost benefits for the state of Nevada.”

The line would go through areas with solar, wind and geothermal power resources and give renewable energy developers a way to ship the power to utilities in populated areas, he said.

While Southern Nevada has no geothermal power, the proposed transmission line would enable NV Energy’s southern utility operations to draw power from geothermal plants in Northern Nevada, he said.

During the commission’s review of the project, Paul Maguire, an analyst with the utilities commission’s staff, said the project would provide significant electric reliability benefits. The Southwest Intertie is likely to have spare capacity and thus could provide day-ahead and month-ahead transmission of power, potentially at low costs, Maguire said.

The company hopes to receive enough subscriptions from investor-owned electric utilities, municipal utilities and electric cooperatives in Nevada and surrounding states to make the project feasible. To proceed, Great Basin needs a good mix of creditworthy customers offering attractive prices and making firm, long-term commitments for typically 20 or 30 years, he said.

Bids are expected later this month, Milburn said.

“There’s certainly a lot of interest (in the transmission project),” he said.

But he declined to predict whether Great Basin will receive enough commitments to obtain financing and start building the power line.

Great Basin hopes to complete the southern leg of the project by early 2011.

Plans call for extending the line north from the Ely area substation to a substation in Idaho in a later phase of construction that could be completed about a year later.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

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