(Photo courtesy of Nevada Power Co.)

Nevada Power Co. was broadsided by California’s energy crisis in 2000-01. Tightened credit halted construction by the private-power developers that it was counting on for electricity supplies. And it was left holding the bag for $437 million of energy costs disallowed by the state Public Utilities Commission. The Las Vegas-based utility saw its bond ratings reduced to junk and it has been trying to make up lost ground ever since.

“Nevada Power Co. has been making progress catching up from the deficit of a few years before,” says Neill Dimmick, deputy direc-tor of the Nevada State Office of Energy. In October 2004, Nevada Power purchased a partially constructed four-unit, 1,200-MW, natural-gas-fired combined-cycle powerplant from developer Duke Energy in the Moapa Valley, 20 miles northeast of Las Vegas, for $250 million. This summer, the former Duke plant, renamed the Chuck Lenzie Generating Station, will begin commercial operation following expenditure of $308 million to complete construction.

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Showing the Strain in Las Vegas
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Nevada Power also is counting on renewable-energy construction to keep up with soaring energy demand. The Temporary Renewable Energy Development Trust, a PUC-backed financing mechanism to assure that renewable-energy developers will be paid, has broken down barriers that have stalled several projects. On Feb. 11, Lauren Engineers & Constructors, Abilene, Texas, began construction

on Nevada Solar One, a 64-MW concentrated solar power project estimated between $220 million and $250 million in Boulder City, Nev. Completion is scheduled for March 2007. And early this month, Las Vegas-based Powered By Renewables LLC and Baltimore-based SunEdison LLC announced plans to begin construction in July on an 18-MW solar photovoltaic project near a military base in Clark County. The project cost is estimated at over $100 million.

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  • To serve 6% annual load growth, Nevada Power is investing $250 million per year in new transmission and distribution lines, says Herb Goforth, Nevada Power director of technical support. The 100-mile-long, 500-kV Centennial Project, launched in 2001 at an estimated cost of $308 million, is about to close its last link, according to Goforth. InfraSource Transmission Services, Mesa, Ariz., is constructing 30 miles of single-circuit line and 18 miles of double-circuit line, costing a total of $117 million.

    But a proposed project north of Ely, Nev., may bring more power to Las Vegas than any scheme to date. Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, is serving as owner’s engineer for the Ely Energy Center, announced in December by Sierra Pacific Resources, Nevada Power’s parent.

    In the first, $3-billion phase, SPR will construct two 750-MW supercritical pulverized-coal units and a 240-mile, 500-kV transmission line to Las Vegas. The new line will be the first to link Nevada’s northern and southern grids, says Goforth.