LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Projects that will more than double Nevada’s solar power generation over the next decade are centered about 200 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

An important part of the renewable energy plan is Greenlink, a $2 billion transmission line project that will connect power customers to the new solar farms in Esmeralda County and elsewhere in the state. Greenlink has been called a “clean energy highway” that will help the state meet ambitious goals to get to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

But Greenlink is drawing heavy criticism from environmentalists, tribal officials and some Nevada towns that will be near the transmission lines.

The transmission lines are scheduled to be constructed between Las Vegas and Yerington by December 2026 (“Greenlink West”) and between Yerington and Ely by December 2028 (“Greenlink North”). Legislation passed in 2021 has set a 2028 deadline for the project’s completion.

Public comment in May 2022 brought criticism that NV Energy had other motives in connecting Northern Nevada to natural gas power plants near Apex, just northeast of Las Vegas. Critics say natural gas — not solar — is NV Energy’s play.

The non-profit group Basin & Range Watch accuses NV Energy of plotting to build Greenlink on ratepayers’ backs and then sell electricity to California’s Silicon Valley when transmission lines connect Apex to Northern Nevada. The group mocks the utility by calling the project “Gaslink.”

Environmentalists point to negative effects on wildlife including pronghorn antelope, desert tortoises, bald eagles and sage grouse. Joshua trees habitat could also be affected, and dust from construction is a concern.

But non-profits and environmentalists aren’t the only ones speaking against NV Energy’s tactics. An early August report on a website that covers utilities — — says that MGM Resorts and Caesars Enterprise Services have objected to NV Energy’s move to seek federal incentives for the project. MGM and Caesars both broke away from NV Energy in 2016, with MGM building its own solar farm and Caesars buying their power from a Texas company. The move cost MGM $87 million and Caesars $47 million.

Court challenges on environmental impacts seem likely.

Political support for Greenlink appears to be solid. NV Energy and government officials frequently cite good-paying jobs as a big benefit. As many as 4,000 jobs will be created. And Greenlink will provide an economic boost for towns along the route as construction continues.

Tribal objections center on the potential disturbance on lands near reservations in Southern Nevada, near Walker Lake in Mineral County and in the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. Some alternative routes have been suggested for the transmission lines.

Part of a series of stories examining solar energy in Nevada. 8 News Now is looking at different aspects of the growth in solar farms — including ones that are already operating, plants that are in development, and some that have been canceled.
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