News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

It's Official: California Grid Operator Expands Into Nevada

Near the proposed HIdden Hills solar facility | Photo: Don Barrett/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The plan's been in the works for more than a year, but the entity that operates California's largest electrical power grid has made the official announcement: it's now managing the grid in much of southwestern Nevada as well.

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What is...? The Grid

The California Independent System Operator (CaISO), a non-profit public benefit organization that managed the electric power transmission grid for most of California, announced today that the Pahrump, Nevada Valley Electric Association has formally joined the CaISO as a participating member.

"We highly value the transmission alliance we now have with Valley Electric," ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich said in a press release. The collaboration will continue to strengthen as we realize the benefits our interregional partnership will produce in the months and years ahead advancing renewable power and creating efficiencies for ratepayers in both California and Nevada."

One of the most likely effects of the merger will be to grease the chute for BrightSource's proposed 500-megawatt Hidden Hills solar thermal power plant to sell power to California utilities. Though Hidden Hills is inside California, no transmission exists across the hundreds of miles of National Park and military bases that lie between the project site and California cities. In order for Hidden Hills to sell power to California utilities without the grid partnership, that power would need to exit the CaISO grid and then re-enter it.

That's technically feasible, but it would have been much harder to count power from Hidden Hills toward California utilities' Renewable Portfolio Standard goals without forcing the CaISO to engage in complicated accounting procedures such as dynamic transfer.

The VEA's service territory stretches over much of southwest Nevada from just west of Las Vegas to the sagebrush flats east of Yosemite. The broad Amargosa Valley, a focal point for lots of proposed utility scale solar projects, is included in the VEA's turf; it may be that the potential of selling power to the California market more easily will spur even more development there.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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