Plan for Nevada utility transmission line drawing comments
The federal Bureau of Land Management is collecting public comment until Wednesday on a big north-south electricity transmission project that Nevada’s main utility, NV Energy, says is a key to its plan for a statewide renewable energy network.
The project, dubbed Greenlink West, would stretch about 350 miles to connect electricity facilities near Las Vegas in southern Nevada and Yerington in the north by the end of 2026. It would generally run parallel to and east of the California state line.
Conservationists and protesters say they do not want to see that much public land disturbed, and members of a tribe adjacent to the route say the transmission lines would adversely affect culturally significant land.
Barbara Durham, tribal historic preservation officer for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, told the Las Vegas Sun that disturbed areas could include former village sites and areas where tribal ancestors found food and traded objects.
Timbisha Shoshone homelands are in Nevada’s Nye, Mineral and Esmeralda counties and California’s Inyo, Kern, San Bernardino and Mono counties.
“We would prefer that they go through already existing areas that have been disturbed,” Durham said. “No matter which way they go they’re going to find the same thing.”
NV Energy projects the Greenlink plan will generate $690 million in economic activity and create about 4,000 jobs, company representative Jennifer Schuricht told the Sun.
Nevada has an existing transmission system that is approaching carrying capacity due to increased growth during the last decade, she said.
“Greenlink Nevada will alleviate some of these capacity issues and also open the state for responsible renewable development,” Schuricht said.
A second phase, Greenlink North, would run east-west for 235 miles from Ely to Yerington. It could be in service in 2028.
One north-south line is already in service, stretching more than 240 miles from the Ely area to Las Vegas.
The state Legislature in 2021 passed a law backing the planned $2 billion Greenlink Nevada upgrade, including two new 525-kilovolt transmission lines to essentially link the entire state.
The goal is 100% renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions, Schuricht said, calling the overall project “essential to helping Nevada achieve its climate action and de-carbonization goals and increased renewable portfolio standard.”
Shannon Salter, an activist who has been fighting renewable energy projects in Nevada and California, was among protesters at the NV Energy office in Las Vegas on May 19 who worried the project will harm desert ecosystems.
Salter called transmission lines a fire hazard, pointing to incidents involving Pacific Gas & Electric that have sparked major wildfires in California in recent years.
PG&E, the nation’s largest utility, agreed last month to pay more than $55 million to avoid criminal prosecution for two wildfires and submit to five years of oversight in an attempt to prevent more deadly blazes.
Salter said she thinks a better, although more difficult move, would be to put solar canopies on parking lots in the Las Vegas area, the state and ultimately across the country.
“The parking lots are these huge, untapped spaces,” Salter told the Sun, projecting that the canopies would provide shade for parked cars and generate energy without hurting the desert ecosystem. “They’re a true wasteland, this forgotten space.”
Public comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management will become part of a record leading to a final environmental impact statement to be published by May 2023.
A 30-day protest period and 60-day governor’s review period would follow before a record of decision for the project is issued in July 2023.