Sierra Pacific proposes $300 million transmission project

In a major expansion of its high capacity transmission system, Sierra Pacific Resources Co., Reno, Nev., is proposing to build 100 line mi of 500 kv transmission networks to serve southern Nevada. The $300 million transmission project would serve an estimated 3,000 Mw of electric generating capacity that is being proposed near Las Vegas, said Gary Porter, executive director, transmission, for Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Nevada Power Co., units of Sierra Pacific Resources.


By Kate Thomas
OGJ Online

HOUSTON, Mar. 12�In a major expansion of its high capacity transmission system, Sierra Pacific Resources Co., Reno, Nev., is proposing to build 100 line mi of 500 kv transmission networks to serve southern Nevada.

The $300 million transmission project would serve an estimated 3,000 Mw of electric generating capacity that is being proposed near Las Vegas, said Gary Porter, executive director, transmission, for Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Nevada Power Co., units of Sierra Pacific Resources.

He said as many as 14 new power projects could be developed in Nevada by competitive generation companies within the next 2 years, if there is transmission capacity available to serve the plants. Sierra Pacific has been working with the developers "for some time" on sites, Porter said. Generation companies would pay for access to the transmission system, but financing for the project remains a question mark.

The first part of the new transmission system will connect the plants, planned for Apex, 15-30 mi northeast of Las Vegas, to the Crystal substation, a substation planned for the northwestern part of the Las Vegas valley, and the Mead substation, south of Boulder City.

Sierra Pacific recently filed a construction permit and is looking at alternative line routes. Where possible, he said, the company will follow existing corridors. Construction is expected to begin in 2002 and completion of the entire project in 2003.

"The most difficult part of any transmission project is obtaining timely permission to construct," Porter said. "We feel good about this opportunity." The permitting process requires route studies, Bureau of Land Management approval, and local permits.

He said the company is pursuing "various" capital alternatives, but declined to be more specific.

Steve Oldham, senior vice-president, said the company has "clearly signaled" its interest by developing transmission plans that could allow new power to move to market when it comes on line. He said there appears to be growing support to take decisive action and avoid a repeat of the delays in California that led to a crisis.

Oldham added, "By timing our new transmission additions to when the new generation is added, the transmission can be built at little or no additional cost to our customers." In addition, he said, there is growing recognition that having strong utility companies allows them to go out into the capital markets and attract capital to make these investments.

Porter said Sierra Pacific also is contemplating adding more transmission capacity in northern Nevada. The company completed the $159 million,160-mi Alturas Intertie, a 345 kv electric transmission line 2 years ago, following 4 years of environmental studies and reviews by local, state, and federal agencies.

The Alturas Intertie nearly doubled Sierra Pacific's ability to import electricity to northern Nevada from other utilities. It allowed Sierra Pacific to purchase more hydroelectric power from the Pacific Northwest.

More in Government