Las Vegas Sun

February 27, 2015

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A road to renewables

Plan to bring more alternative energy won’t move forward without transmission lines

The Western Governors’ Association released a report Monday identifying more than 50 locations for renewable energy development in the western United States, Canada and Mexico. As expected, the report shows that Nevada contains areas that can produce plentiful amounts of electricity from solar and geothermal production.

The areas identified by the governors association are estimated to be able to each yield at least 1,500 megawatts of electricity, a substantial sum of energy, which could be tapped to help move the country toward energy independence. However, for the renewable plants to become viable, a network of electrical transmission lines will have to be built across the West, and that has long been a major obstacle. Transmission lines are expensive and the permitting process is often prohibitive.

Members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet attended the governors’ meeting this week in Utah and pledged their support. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversee federal lands transmission lines would cross, said they would work to streamline the permitting process.

Salazar announced that his department would open renewable energy offices in four Western states, including Nevada, in an effort to move along projects before the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM also this week announced that next month it plans to auction off leases for 103 parcels in Nevada, making up about 325,130 acres, designated for geothermal energy plants.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the governors he is “unhappy” about the pace at which the government is funding transmission line projects and wants to see more speed. The federal stimulus package provides about $3.2 billion to build transmission lines for renewable energy projects, but those seeking the money have found it difficult to come by.

The support of Cabinet officials is important for Nevada and the nation to tap into these abundant sources of renewable energy. Federal agencies should move quickly to help develop renewable energy projects in the West.

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