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United States

United States

Grid line helps state start generating

UNITED STATES: South-western US state Nevada, with no wind power installed, is finally getting in the game. Through a federal Recovery Act loan guarantee, transmission lines will be built for 350MW of wind already in the pipeline.

By the end of 2012, the state will boast a new 375-kilometre, 500kV transmission line largely intended for renewable energy. The $510 million One Nevada Transmission Line (ON Line) is a joint venture between NV Energy, which provides 90% of the state's electricity, and transmission company LS Power. It will carry power from east-central Ely to Las Vegas at the state's southern tip.

The loan guarantees $350 million for the line. NV and LS will own the wires and fund the remaining $160 million - 75% from LS.

By the end of 2010 Pattern Energy will begin construction on its 150MW Spring Valley wind project near Ely, in time to qualify for federal cash grants of roughly 30% of project costs. The $225 million project should finish by the end of 2011 and generate power before the ON Line is finished.

The 200MW China Mountain project on the Idaho border is a 50:50 joint venture between NV and RES Americas, and may expand to 400MW or more. It will use existing transmission to reach the ON Line.

Both wind farms have secured 20-year power purchase agreements with NV.

Plans already exist to extend the ON Line northward, adding transmission in Idaho and connecting northern and southern Nevada. For now, the ON Line is mostly designed to flow power south into Las Vegas, says Tom Fair, NV's renewable energy vice-president.

Despite the flurry of recent activity and a renewable energy standard that calls for 25% green energy by 2025, Pattern project manager George Hardie doubts Nevada will become a wind hotbed. Roughly 90% of state land is owned by the federal government, which complicates permitting processes. The unemployment rate is the nation's highest, population is sparse, US natural gas prices remain low - dragging wind power prices down with them - and the recession has decreased the state's demand for power.

Hardie believes that, at most, four more large-scale wind projects will be built, up to 800MW. "The wind resource isn't as good as some of the states to the east," he says.

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