Public Utilities Commission of Nevada staff, in a recent memorandum to the commission, recommended that the commission approve Techren Solar, LLC’s request for the issuance of a Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA) permit for a project that involves a solar facility, substation and transmission line.
As noted in the memorandum, Techren in April 2012 filed with the commission an application for a permit to begin construction (UEPA Permit) of the Techren Boulder City Solar Project, consisting of a 300-MW photovoltaic (PV) solar-powered electric generating facility; a substation with 34.5-kV to 230-kV step-up transformers; about four miles of a 230-kV transmission line or three miles of a 500-kV transmission line; and associated facilities to be located in Boulder City, Clark County, Nev.
Techren in November 2016 filed a second amended application to modify the project description of the proposed facility to incorporate changes to the original transmission line to include a path to the Nevada Solar One (NSO) substation, a new access road, and two water pipelines to the solar field. The second amended application also requested that the UEPA Permit be issued in three separate phases to accommodate Techren’s construction schedule. Staff further stated that while Techren currently plans to build only 100 MW and a 230-kV transmission line, it has retained the 300-MW capacity in the project to have the option of building the remaining 200 MW, thus expanding the 100 MW PV solar array.
Staff said that it recommends that the commission issue an order granting the second amended application and approve Techren’s request for the issuance of a UEPA permit consisting of multiple phases for construction of the project, conditioned upon Techren obtaining and filing with the commission a copy of all required outstanding permits, licenses, and approvals needed for each individual phase.
Staff noted that the proposed project’s PV solar array and associated facilities would be located on about 2,300 acres of land owned by and leased from Boulder City in the city’s Eldorado Valley Solar Energy Zone, about 10 miles southwest of the intersection of the U.S. Highways 93 and 95, just north of the Eldorado dry lake bed.
Originally, staff said, the transmission lines were described as interconnecting the project with either the Eldorado and McCullough substations, or the Marketplace substation, which is located on a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) right of way (ROW) within a BLM-designed utility corridor. The first 100 MW of solar capacity was updated in the filing to include a 230-kV transmission line that would connect to the existing NSO substation, which is inside NV Energy’s balancing authority. However, staff added, in response to a staff data request, Techren said that a portion of the original transmission route is still included in the project for future possible access to the original interconnection substations, in the event that the additional 200 MW of solar capacity is sold outside of Nevada.
Techren has signed a large generator interconnection agreement with Nevada Power d/b/a NV energy to connect to the NSO substation. Staff also said that at the time of filing the second amended application, the project had a purchased power agreement with NV Energy pending commission approval in a separate docket (Docket No. 16-08026); an order in that docket was issued in December 2016, approving the purchased power agreement.
Due to the changes in the project, permits have been added and removed from the original permit list filed in Techren’s amended application, staff noted.
Discussing the gen-tie line, staff noted that it would be a 230-kV double circuit line and originate on the west side of the solar facility, extend south, and then split. One circuit would extend northeast and then turn south in order to terminate at the NSO substation, staff said, adding that the second circuit would be built in the future and is planned to continue south to another substation, depending on what entity contracts for the additional 200 MW.
Staff said that the need for the project balances any adverse effects on the environment, and that the environmental effects caused by the project are not expected to be significant. Furthermore, given the mitigation measures required by the BLM, most of the adverse effects on the environment would be mitigated to the greatest extent possible, staff said.
Noting that Techren has demonstrated that the project would serve the public interest, staff said that the project would provide renewable energy and capacity to NV Energy and the Western Interconnect, as well as employ 300 local workers for the construction phase and about 10 permanent workers for the operational phase.
Among other things, staff said that the proposed transmission routes provide a path that allows more generation to be connected to the electric grid, and that generation can provide such benefits as providing energy and capacity to customers, voltage support, reactive power support, and improving overall system reliability.
Staff recommended that a commission order contain a provision that if Techren does not file all of the requisite compliance items within five years of the order’s effective date, then the order would be deemed to be vacated.