Acknowledging that the timing of its plans for a coal-fired power plant and high-voltage transmission line are uncertain, Nevada Power Co. said last Wednesday it will move up its filing to build a 500 MW natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant adjacent to its existing 144 MW Harry Allen Generating Station 35 miles north of Las Vegas.

The filing to state regulators will be made in the first quarter next year, a utility spokesperson said. As the coal complex's timing slips, the utility now has to move up its plans for expanding the Harry Allen plant, according to the CEO of its holding company, Sierra Pacific Resources. Michael Yackira said there is an increased need to assure future electricity reliability for fast-growing southern Nevada.

Assuming it can get the needed approvals from the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the new gas-fired plant could be operational by the summer of 2011, according to the utility, which had talked about the new 500 MW plant in its past integrated resource plan but had not established a formal development time line for it.

"Our decision to move ahead with this project was largely based on uncertainties related to the timing for the opening of our Ely Energy Center in eastern Nevada," said Yackira. "Because of the current permitting schedule, it is unlikely that our original plans to have the first 750 MW phase of Ely operational by late 2011 can be met. We were required, therefore, to move forward earlier than anticipated with a new, highly efficient natural gas plant to assure continued reliable electric service in southern Nevada."

Yackira emphasized that the gas-fired unit had been planned for a number of years, but it was slated for construction after the Ely Center was fully operational.

Sierra Pacific Resources and its two Nevada utilities for the past two years have pushed hard to develop the $3.7 billion Ely Center and related 230-mile high-voltage transmission line, but they also are committed to investing more than $2 billion in renewable energy supplies between now and 2015.

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