Composite Power aims to turn Nevadas desert green

April C. Murelio

Associate Editor

Bringing together private and public interests, Composite Power Corp. (CPC), a Nevada-based manufacturer of composite infrastructure materials, plans to develop what could become the world`s largest renewable energy project.

CPC plans to initially develop 50 to 150 MW of wind and solar power generation by 2002 in the Amargosa Valley located about 110 miles northwest of Las Vegas. However, working with strategic partners-Siemens, Duke Solar, Stirling Energy Systems, MinneSolar, the Nevada Science and Technology Corridor, and the Desert Research Institute-CPC hopes to add more than 1,000 MW to the Nevada Green Energy Project over the next few years.

Established in 1990, CPC`s line of composites-materials made from glass and resins-include utility poles and other electricity transmission system components such as fasteners, pole caps, bottom plates, and structural T-brackets.

Earlier this year, CPC and Goldsworthy and Associates agreed to jointly establish a large, integrated composite materials manufacturing facility in Richland, Wash., taking its first step from product development to production.

C. William Arrington, PC`s president, said the company selected the Richland site because of its proximity to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy and has also offered CPC research and development assistance. Arrington said CPC hopes to capitalize on these alliances to not only tap into the $4 billion utility pole replacement market, but to become-through initiatives like the Nevada Green Power Project-a leading energy provider over the next two to three years.

Throughout July and early August, CPC secured a flurry of memorandums of understanding with various parties involved with the Nevada Green Power Project, including Siemens, the Nevada Science and Technology Corridor (NSTC), the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and MinneSolar.

Siemens Power Transmission & Distribution plans to supply the project`s electrical grid and operating system infrastructure to transfer power from the various renewable energy sites within the project corridor and feed it into existing transmission lines.

In mid-August, said Mike Derrick, Siemens vice president of vertical market sales, the company started a systems study to evaluate the capability of existing transmission lines, current tariff structures, how the Las Vegas area might best benefit from the green power produced within the corridor, and other operational issues. The next step, a site plan, could begin by October and take several months to complete, Derrick said.

MinneSolar, a Virginia-based company, plans to provide the project with solar systems and work with CPC to develop the U.S. solar photovoltaic market.

Established in 1959 by a special act of the Nevada Legislature, DRI con- ducts basic and applied research for business, industry and government, and it plans to provide these services to CPC for the Nevada Green Energy Project and others. NSTC, a quasi-public entity created to promote economic development for Nye County, where this project will be located, plans to provide miscellaneous support, which could include some project financing. Nye County is the third largest county in the lower 48 states, with 18,000 square miles, favorable locations for wind projects and significant geothermal reserves.

Other CPC projects include the development of four, 500 MW, coal-fired mer- chant power plants in Bearcreek, Mont., and an 850-mile, high voltage transmission line, which will carry power to the Wisconsin market.

As part of the $2.7 billion project, CPC and its subsidiary, Composite Energy Corp., purchased mineral rights to 250 million tons of coal in the Bearcreek mining area late last year, a move that provides CPC with a minimum 30-year supply of fuel.

CPC also proposes building another 850-mile, high voltage transmission line from The Dalles, Ore., to Las Vegas. Estimated to cost about $1.3 billion, CPC plans to take renewable energy from a hydro facility in southern Oregon, its Nevada Green Energy Project near Las Vegas and a Washington wind farm.

Arrington said several potential joint venture partners and equity investors have approached CPC about these projects, but details and arrangements haven`t been finalized.

However last January, CPC signed a series of agreements with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), a consortium of 54 Native American Indian tribes, to assist the company in financing its energy transmission and generation projects.

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