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Nevada’s Greenlink Has Big Plans for Solar

Greenlink Nevada, the largest transmission project in Nevada’s history, continues to make progress. The project was proposed by NV Energy in 2020 as both a transmission and renewable energy initiative. Greenlink Nevada consists of two phases, Greenlink West (Phase I) and North (Phase II), with respective completion dates of 2026 and 2028. The projects will facilitate the development of renewables in the resource-rich regions of rural Nevada, positioning the state as one of the key exporters of renewable energy in the Western Energy Imbalance Market. To no surprise, many developers have fixed their interests on siting projects along the 525 kV energy highway, many of which will never be built. Today’s Energy Market Insight will discuss how development along Greenlink may likely unfold and where that power will come online.

Greenlink West, connecting Reno to Las Vegas via 350 miles of transmission lines, is the first of the two phases to gain approval from the Nevada PUC. As with any major transmission upgrade, Greenlink West’s approval has opened the door to an abundance of newly proposed projects.

Almost all the proposed plants along the line are solar with co-located battery storage, indicating the likely shift of the regional fuel dynamic. Perhaps to benefit the most in this region are the data centers within the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. With a presence of companies like Google, Tesla, and Switch, there is a need for renewable generation to satisfy their own sustainability and ESG commitments. However, the end goal of this infrastructure upgrade is to facilitate the growth of renewables in rural Nevada where development previously had not been possible. From the density of proposed projects in this region alone, that goal is certainly to be met.

The influx of projects along the Greenlink West line has brought about some of the largest solar facilities ever to be proposed in the U.S. With the addition of these projects, Greenlink West has changed the scene of regional solar development.

Totaling 40 GW in capacity, solar development in the region of Greenlink West alone has surpassed states like California with some of the most vigorous clean-energy goals. It’s important to note that over 35 GW of the solar in this region are in the early stages of development; these projects have yet to reach the stages where the most significant financial investments are required. Therefore, it is unlikely that all these projects will eventually reach commercial operation.

Alongside solar, battery storage has seen an increasing amount of attention. Comprising around 120 GWh of proposed capacity, sufficient storage is likely to increase the number of solar facilities that come online. Without storage, solar generation caps at the carrying capability limits of the transmission infrastructure. For most of the top proposed solar projects, developers have elected to include co-located storage with their facilities.

These projects have raised the bar of what was traditionally understood as “big” solar projects. From the largest operating solar project today of 586 MW to the 2,250 MW in Chill Sun Solar, the capabilities of utility-scale solar have drastically increased. With extensive land footprints, developers are likely to see pushback from environmentalists. Nonetheless, any single project will be a showcase of how large-scale solar can perform.

None of these projects would be possible without Greenlink Nevada, highlighting the significance and impact of sufficient transmission on regional development. With other major transmission upgrades underway like the Grain Belt Express and Clean Path NY, surrounding regions will likely undergo similar effects. In the meantime, Greenlink will showcase how infrastructure can completely transform an area from a rural landscape to a renewable energy hotspot.

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Eric Hinojosa is an Energy Analyst at BTU Analytics, primarily focusing on power market data and analysis. Eric holds a B.S. in Physics with a minor in Mathematical Sciences from Ball State University.

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