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NV Energy asks PUC to stop VEA

NV Energy is continuing a feud with Valley Electric Association over contracts awarded a year ago, this time asking the Public Utilities Commission not to approve upgrades to the Nevada National Security Site until studies demonstrating there will be no negative impacts to NV Energy’s system.

NV Energy, which formerly supplied power to the NNSS, complained Valley Electric hasn’t coordinated with them on the “innovation project.”

VEA was awarded a five-year, $61 million contract to provide electrical service to the NNSS, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, last September. The Public Utilities Commission denied a petition by NV Energy April 23, 2012, which alleged Valley Electric had to file an application and pay an exit fee before the U.S. Department of Energy ceased taking electrical service from them.

VEA filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission July 12 to build upgrades, specifically a 5.3-mile, 138-kilovolt steel pole transmission line between the DOE switching center at Mercury and the Valley Electric innovation substation. It will connect with the new VEA 230-kilovolt northwest transmission line around the Spring Mountains.

The DOE said electric power service to the site is currently transmitted over two 138-kilovolt transmission lines on wooden poles built in the 1960s, one owned by VEA the other by NV Energy. Both companies have serviced the site in the past.

The DOE said it’s critical to have a reliable source of power to the NNSS, whose mission is maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile and the recently expanded hazardous chemical spill testing and emergency response training facility.

“At present the existing utility-owned electrical power delivery configuration is inadequate to meet the requirements of the NNSS and so compromises the programs at the site and therefore the missions of the site,” the DOE states. “Under the current delivery configuration the site has experienced single transmission line outages of extended duration that leave the site served radially and force programs to incur costly operational changes.”

When power is supplied by only one transmission line, voltage drops and concerns over a complete loss of power can cause serious delays in data gathering experiments, the DOE states, resulting in millions of dollars in cost to the U.S. government and taxpayers.

The current configuration also makes it extremely difficult to coordinate circuit breaker relays, the DOE states, causing more extensive power supply disruptions. Also, scheduled outages for maintenance leave the NNSS with only one power supply and risk of a complete outage.

The third line will leave the NNSS with an uninterrupted power supply, the DOE said. The proximity to the 230-kilovolt northwest transmission line will allow the current to increase eight-fold, improving coordination of the relay process, limiting power supply disruptions.

NV Energy filed comments on the Valley Electric innovation station on Aug. 7, the same day as the DOE. NV Energy said the third transmission line may provide increasing dependability and reliable capacity. But they added, “VEA has not provided information to NV Energy that demonstrates that this expansion does not create reliability impacts to the operation of NV Energy’s electric system.”

The company added, “NV Energy is concerned with the continued lack of regard for coordinated planning demonstrated by VEA in its development of interconnection projects.”

NV Energy said Valley Electric altered their plans on hooking up the 230-kilovolt line to their northwest substation without notifying them, which was uncovered only when NV Energy operators noticed significantly higher electric flows.

NV Energy disagreed with the Valley Electric statement they approved of the innovation project, only that they approved a crossing of their northwest Mercury 138-kv line.

“NV Energy sees no evidence from VEA as the project developer of any coordinated planning with affected systems, which coordinated planning is normally expected and performed through the transmission planning process,” the company states. “The obligation is upon VEA to demonstrate that the proposed facilities can be reliably integrated into the interconnected transmission network without impacts to adjacent systems, including NV Energy.”

While NV Energy concedes the new innovation line would be within the California Independent System of Operators (CAISO) balancing authority area and would connect to a switchyard not owned by NV Energy, they said it is the responsibility of VEA as a transmission owner and operator in the National Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC) to conduct and share transmission planning studies of the proposed expansion.

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