The town of Apex, Nevada is normally just the location of the Apex Regional Landfill (the largest landfill in the state of Nevada), a small relief power station that comes online when nearby Las Vegas is overloading the grid and not much else. However last week brought red-letter days for this dusty, nondescript stretch of Hwy 93 situated just northeast of the city of lights. The One Nevada Transmission Line or “ON Line” (so clever!) project commencement was hosted at NV Energy’s [NASDAQ: NVE] Harry Allen Generating Station campus on Tuesday. It was a fairly star-studded event with U.S. Energy Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both in attendance, alongside a veritable who’s who of Nevada’s energy-industry brass to witness the beginning of a project that is being billed as a significant breakthrough in the support of renewable power and a major source of green collar jobs, as well as being symbolic of the new direction the state of Nevada is taking towards energy policy through the strong support of renewables.
The One Nevada transmission line consists of a 500 kilovolt power conduit that will cover the entire length of the state of Nevada running north-south. It will eventually be extended as far north as Idaho. The portion of the line that will be completed in this first phase consists of a 235-mile line extending from the Harry Allen site to a new electrical substation that will be constructed northwest of the town of Ely, Nevada. The projected price tag for the project will top $510 million.
But the question that many people are asking is: Why is this project getting so much attention as being vital to the renewable energy sector?
As Nevada has worked towards tapping into their state’s unique potential for renewable power production, ventures have run into a significant problem. The remote sites in the central, eastern, and northern parts of the state that lend themselves well to renewable energy projects don’t have access to any type of feed-in that would allow them to move the energy they produce to the markets in the south and west that need the power. The One Nevada line will be routed specifically to provide ease of access to desert solar projects, wind farms in the dusty plains and geothermal projects in the northern half of the state. Up until this point, the huge empty desert that makes up the central portion of the state has acted like a barrier that has hindered the development of these projects. Nevada has essentially been split in two in terms of electrical infrastructure, with Reno and other towns like Elko in the north and Las Vegas in the south. The One Nevada transmission line will remedy this, opening the door to huge consumer markets in Las Vegas and Southern California for a new generation of Nevada based renewable energy producers to explore.
The combination of ideal conditions for efficient renewable power production with ease of access to a nearly bottomless demand for electricity will transform Nevada’s arid deserts into fruitful investments for green energy speculation and open the door to accelerated growth for renewable energy projects that have been put on hold because of transmission hurdles. The southwest intertie project is one of the most important and exciting renewable energy projects to break ground in 2010. In fact, it may end up being the most significant because of the number of other projects it will directly affect, which is probably what got all those big-wigs to spend their Tuesday standing next to a landfill in the Nevada desert.