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Project could increase renewable energy efforts in Southern Nevada

The completion of an interconnection between an electric transmission system in Southern Nevada and a major power grid in California could be a boon for renewable energy developers in the state.

Dallas-based GridLiance, an independent electric transmission utility holding company that owns a 164-mile transmission system in Southern Nevada, commissioned its 230-kilovolt Sloan Canyon switching station near Boulder City in mid-November. The project also included the construction of approximately three miles of an electric transmission line.

The 230-kilovolt switching station, part of a $50 million transmission improvement project by GridLiance, interconnects GridLiance’s Southern Nevada transmission system to the California Independent System Operator, which could spark growth in the development of renewable energy projects in the state.

“We expect strong growth in the region,” said GridLiance West President Justin Campbell. “This year, we received interconnection requests from 1,800 MW of new generation. While not all of these will move forward at this time, it shows how significant the growth will be.”

To put this number into perspective, the national trade association Solar Energy Industries Association’s website (SEIA), the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a solar generation plant in the Mojave Desert in California, can power over 100,000 homes.

Using the national association’s numbers on Ivanpah, the number of homes that can be powered by this plant is over 255 per megawatt.

Other plants such as Abengoa Solar Inc.’s 280-megawatt Mojave Solar One plant just northeast of Los Angeles can power approximately 90,000 homes or over 321 homes per megawatt.

GridLiance stated in a news release that the efforts by the company to interconnect with the California grid supports Nevada’s efforts to become a net exporter of renewable energy and California’s “policy to rely solely on renewable energy sources for electricity by 2045.”

“There are great benefits in Nevada and California collaborating to ensure further renewable energy development in the region,” Campbell said in an email. “Nevada government officials recognize those benefits and have been very engaged with us in discussions about our efforts.”

GridLiance completed its acquisition of 164 miles of Valley Electric Association Inc.’s transmission lines in 2017 for over $200 million. Valley Electric joined the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) in 2013.

GridLiance is a portfolio company of Blackstone Energy partners, an affiliate of Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE:BX).

“Valley Electric Association provides maintenance and operations service for the Sloan Canyon Improvement Project and all of the other facilities which GridLiance owns in Nevada,” Campbell said.

Overall, GridLiance operates hundreds of miles of transmission lines and related substation facilities in three states: Nevada, Missouri and Oklahoma. The company also has long-term partnerships with utility companies operating in Missouri, Oklahoma, Nevada and Kansas.

“GridLiance partners with electric cooperatives, public power, and renewable energy developers to plan for the future of the grid, invest in electric infrastructure and implement strategies that meet its partners’ ownership, capital investment, and operational goals,” the company states in a news release.

With an expansion of renewable resource production in Nevada, GridLiance’s system is pegged for upgrades.

“As the development of renewable energy resources expands in the Pahrump Valley, our transmission system will be further upgraded and expanded,” Campbell said. “In the future, this transmission expansion could occur on and over the California border.”

Interconnection to California

GridLiance’s commissioning of its Sloan Canyon project, which sits in the Boulder City area, on Nov. 19. The event included leaders from Valley Electric, GridLiance, and the California Independent System Operator. The guest list also included Boulder City Mayor Kiernan McManus and officials from the Bureau of Land Management’s Southern Nevada District Office.

The Sloan Canyon Improvement Project creates a physical connection to the California Independent System Operator.

“There is a 230-kilovolt line that runs from Sloan Canyon to Southern California Edison’s Eldorado Substation,” Campbell said.

“The Sloan Canyon Switching Station is also connected to the GridLiance Pahrump 230-kilovolt substation, near Pahrump, and Western Area Power Administration’s 230-kilovolt Mead substation near Boulder City,” Campbell said. “That line was built as part of the project and is the physical.”

GridLiance’s future capital projects underway is upgrading the connection between Sloan Canyon and the Mead switching station’s 230-kilovolt transmission line, a 15-mile transmission line that runs across Eldorado Valley near Boulder City.

“Once completed, the project will reduce costs to customers by allowing lower-cost generation to be dispatched,” Campbell said. “This project will save customers approximately $180 million over its life.”

Citing the 2017-2018 CAISO Transmission Plan, Campbell stated in an email that, “The present value of this savings over the 40-year life of the project at a 7% discount rate is approximately $180 million.”

Future renewable growth

GridLiance couldn’t give specific information on certain projects that Nevada could see sprout up in the future.

“However, we’ve formed a coalition of renewable developers with like-minded business interests to create the future sooner rather than later,’ Campbell said.

Campbell said, “GridLiance has worked with renewable developers, transmission holders, and other stakeholders to form the Coalition for the Optimization of Renewable Development (CORD). CORD is focused on promoting the benefits of renewable development in Southern Nevada to help Nevada meet its goal of becoming a net energy exporter and California meet its” goals on the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard and its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission’s website, the state has a goal of having 60% of California’s electricity be derived from renewables. By 2045, the state is set to require “all the state’s electricity to come from carbon-free resources,” according to the California utilities commission’s website.

The renewables market could be heading for a bright future.

“In recent years, the cost of renewable energy has decreased dramatically to the point where it is increasingly competing with or often even lower than the marginal cost of oil, coal, and gas-fired power plants,” Campbell said. “At the same time, electrification of the economy continues, and states are increasingly adopting ambitious clean energy goals. These conditions increase the demand for clean energy and encourage further investment in renewable projects.”

Campbell said southwest Nevada has a potential to see a build-out of as much as 40,000 megawatts of“clean, renewable energy.”

“Ensuring timely, cost-effective, lower-risk build-out of Nevada’s renewable energy export capacity will require upgrading of GridLiance’s existing transmission system,” Campbell said. “This will allow for the deferral of greenfield transmission projects in costlier and riskier regions of Southern Nevada.”

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com, on Twitter @MeehanLv

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