updated 10/1/2007 2:09:55 PM ET 2007-10-01T18:09:55

Clean-energy pledges made last week at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York include one from a company that's looking at Nevada as a possible site for a big solar-thermal power plant.

John O'Donnell of Ausra Inc. said in a telephone interview that Ausra committed to development of solar-thermal plants that will generate 1,000 megawatts of power. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company plans to start with a 175-megawatt plant.

Also last week, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric pledged to buy 1,000 megawatts of solar power over the next five years, and Florida-based FPL Group Inc. said it would develop plants that would produce another 500 megawatts of solar-thermal power.

Combined cost of the solar plants that would be built by Ausra and FPL could run about $3 billion, O'Donnell said. He added that Ausra is using technology that enables it to competitively price its energy.

O'Donnell said a key reason for Nevada being considered by Ausra is a plan by Nevada-based Sierra Pacific Resources to build a cross-state power transmission line at a cost of nearly $600 million.

And with the PG&E pledge to buy more solar power, "we have a big customer making a big commitment right next door," he said.

O'Donnell also said Ausra's plans could include a manufacturing plant near the solar-thermal power generating plant. That saves transportation costs and reduces the potential for damage during shipping, he added.

He also said that wind farms could tie into the transmission line to increase the amount of energy from alternative sources, which could play a major role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions that are leading to global warming.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who opposes new coal-fired power plants in Nevada, said the solar venture "is the type of project that we're talking about. It's renewable, clean, reliable and affordable."

Reid, D-Nev., has introduced a bill requiring most power transmitted over the proposed cross-state line to come from alternative energy sources.

Reid's measure would require Sierra Pacific Resources to ensure that 75 percent of the power transmitted over its planned high-voltage line comes from solar, wind, geothermal or other alternative energy sources.

If Sierra, parent of Reno-based Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Las Vegas-based Nevada Power, didn't build the line, the bill by Reid, D-Nev., gives bonding authority to the Western Area Power Administration so it can do the job.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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