Wind power at forefront of Reid’s green-energy conference

LAS VEGAS — The politics of renewable energy is on the agenda Tuesday in battleground Nevada, where Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is hosting a fifth annual green-energy conference at a Las Vegas Strip resort.

Obama administration Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar plans to open the event touting plans for a San Francisco-based developer to begin producing electricity Wednesday on a 12-square-mile wind energy farm in Nevada’s White Pine County. Pattern Energy Group LP’s Spring Valley wind power project is expected to produce up to 150 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 45,000 homes.

Mr. Salazar, who last month announced plans for a 3,000-megawatt wind power complex in Wyoming, also is expected to outline administration hopes for offering leases by the end of the year for the first Atlantic Ocean wind energy projects off the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coasts. The U.S. currently has no operating offshore wind farm.

National Clean Energy Summit 5.0 at the Bellagio hotel-casino will feature an afternoon address by Bill Clinton, a “fireside chat” involving the former president and his former White House chief of staff, John Podesta, and a closing speech by Mr. Reid.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Podesta have appeared at previous years’ Reid energy summits in Las Vegas. Mr. Podesta was co-chairman of President Obama’s transition team and now heads a liberal think tank in Washington.

Energy is a wedge issue in the presidential campaigns of Mr. Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The candidates differ on plans for domestic production of coal, oil and gas reserves. Republicans have blamed Mr. Obama for granting more than $500 million in federal stimulus loan guarantees to the Solyndra Inc. solar power project in California. Solyndra became a model for green energy hopes before it declared bankruptcy in September.

A second solar company failed last month when Abound Solar Inc. announced it will seek bankruptcy liquidation. Abound, based in Loveland, Colo., had a more than $400 million federal loan guarantee and a plan to build a new plant in Tipton, Ind. Its representatives have complained that Chinese manufacturers undercut the price of solar panels.

Beacon Power Corp., a Massachusetts-based energy-storage firm that got a $43 million federal loan guarantee, also declared bankruptcy last year.

The Obama administration said losses were expected when Congress set aside $10 billion for high-risk program loan guarantees to projects that would have trouble obtaining private financing. It points to a report by a former Treasury Department official that says more rigorous financial oversight and stricter performance standards could reduce the risk of future defaults.

In Nevada, a North Las Vegas green energy plant folded last month, a little more than a year after it began producing concentrated photovoltaic solar power systems. Seal Beach, Calif.-based Amonix Inc. had received a $15.6 million federal Energy Department grant in 2007 under the George W. Bush administration. The company began laying off workers several weeks after its chief executive died in a plane crash in December.

But Nevada is home to the Hoover Dam hydroelectric power plant on the Colorado River and is third in the nation for utility-scale solar projects. It has served several times as a stage for Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid to highlight renewable energy projects.

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