Public Utilities Commission of Nevada staff, in a Jan. 18 memorandum to the commission, recommended that the commission issue an order granting ORNI 43 LLC’s Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA) application involving a 230-kV transmission line (referred to as “Gen-Tie Line”) and switching station in Churchill County, Nev.
Staff recommended that the commission issue a permit to build the project, conditioned upon ORNI 43 obtaining and filing with the commission a copy of the outstanding permits, licenses and approvals needed for the Gen-Tie Line and associated facilities, including a special use permit from Churchill County, and a “Class II AQ Surface Area Disturbance Permit” from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection.
As noted in the memorandum, ORNI 43 last October filed its application, requesting that the commission grant a UEPA permit authorizing the start of construction of a 16.5-mile, 230-kV overhead monopole Gen-Tie Line, as well as the Alpine switching station, which is comprised of: three 230-kV breakers and associated switches, footings, and frameworks; two 230-kV A-frame dead-end structures; two 230-kV line switches and associated support structures; and two 230-kV station service voltage transformers, associated fiber optic cable infrastructure, related control building, and fencing.
The memorandum further noted that the project is required for the interconnection of a proposed 24-MW gross geothermal energy generating facility.
ORNI 43 has demonstrated that the project would serve the public interest as it would enable ORNI 43 to connect the 24-MW geothermal energy generating facility to the electrical transmission grid, thereby providing 24 MW of renewable energy to customers in Nevada and/or customers in neighboring states, staff said.
Staff noted that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued an environmental assessment for the project, and concluded that if certain mitigation measures are implemented, the project would have no significant impact on the environment.
The Nevada State Clearinghouse in February 2016 requested comments from state agencies regarding the notice of application for federal approval to build the project, staff said. The Naval Air Station filed comments requesting the project coordination of construction and operation to facilitate compatible development, and to minimize impact to training operations.
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Water Pollution Control, in its comments, included a list of required permits relating to the procurement of construction water that may be needed for the project. Staff also said that comments from the Division of Water Resources outlined applicable statutes associated with water use for the project. The State Historic Preservation Office, in its comments, stated that it has no cultural resources/historic preservation concerns regarding the project, staff said.
One public comment was filed with the commission in November 2016, outlining concerns of adverse impacts to NV Energy ratepayers, specifically questioning whether the interconnection of the project impacts NV Energy’s import capabilities on the 230-kV transmission lines from Utah; and whether any wheeling agreement would be filed with the commission.
Staff added that while those issues are FERC jurisdictional items, staff has reviewed the comments. Staff said that based upon its review of the Point-to-Point Transmission Service Agreement, the energy associated with ORNI 43 is proposed to be delivered to southern Nevada – i.e., to the Mead 230-kV substation – for possible export to California. Therefore, staff said, the project is expected to have minimal, if any, impact on NV Energy’s ability to import power from Utah.
However, even if there was a possible impact on NV Energy’s import capabilities from Utah, FERC rules do not allow NV Energy’s merchant resource function to reserve and hold useful transmission capacity for potential future speculative benefits/uses, staff said.
The information regarding any transmission service agreement executed between NV Energy and ORNI 43 would be subject to FERC oversight, staff said, adding that the proposed project is in NV Energy’s Interconnection Request Queue as “Company HE” and has a current in-service date of December 2019.
Among other things, staff said that it recommends that the commission’s order contain a provision that if ORNI 43 does not file with the commission all of the requisite compliance items within three years of the effective date of the order, then the order will be deemed to be vacated, without further action by, or order of, the commission.