Renewable Energy Projects Approved

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Two renewable energy projects representing a $100 million-plus investment by Las Vegas-based Nevada Power Co. - a cost likely to be covered over time by the utility's customers - were approved Wednesday by state regulators.

The ventures include a half-interest in a 30-megawatt geothermal project with Reno-based Ormat, a leading geothermal power company,
which will be located on federal land in northern Nevada. Part of the Carson Lake site is on the Fallon Naval Air Station.

Also included in the state Public Utilities Commission approval was a Nevada Power investment in a six-megawatt generating facility at Goodsprings, about 30 miles south of Las Vegas. Ormat is supplying heat recovery generating gear and will build that project.

The commission order also authorized Nevada Power to spend $3.5
million on routing and siting studies for renewable energy transmission.

Most of the $100 million-plus cost is for the geothermal project in northern Nevada, although the exact amount wasn't disclosed by either the PUC or by Nevada Power, a Sierra Pacific Resources subsidiary.

Michael Yackira, president and CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources, termed the PUC approval "a significant milestone" that shows the company's commitment to renewable energy projects.

Eric Witkowski, the state's consumer advocate for utility customers, said the alternative energy projects, especially the geothermal venture, appear to be good steps. But he remains concerned about possible add-on costs that could wind up on consumers' bills.

"We're cautious about what they may be seeking in the future that would add onto the costs," he said. Both projects should be completed by 2010 or 2011.

Asked whether the projects made economic sense, Yackira said, "If it wasn't a reasonable investment, we wouldn't be investing." He also said that while a breakdown of costs wasn't being disclosed, the overall figure showed the projects weren't "small potatoes."

Yackira also said the ventures would help the company to meet state requirements that a certain percentage of its generated power comes from renewable energy sources. That portfolio standard wasn't met last year but should be this year, he said.

Nevada Power provides electricity to about 826,000 residential and business customers in a 4,500-square-mile southern Nevada service area.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)