News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Nevada Votes To Close Coal Plant

Reid Gardner in December 2012 | Photo: Carl Berger/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Nevada Assembly voted Monday night to order the shut down of a coal-fired power plant northeast of Las Vegas that supplies the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) with electrical power. The Reid Gardner Generating Station near the Moapa Paiute reservation has long been criticized for its contribution to southwestern air pollution.

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The Nevada Assembly voted 53-10 to approve SB 123, which would direct NV Energy to shutter the 557-megawatt Reid Gardner plant completely by 2017, with three of the plant's four units closing next year. NV Energy, which strongly supported the bill, has been planning to back away from coal-fired electricity for some time. Its other coal fired plant, a 522-megawatt facility near Valmy in the northern end of the state, is scheduled to close down by 2025.

Reid Gardner has long been the bane off people living on the Moapa reservation, and passage of SB 123 was cheered by the tribe. "When we first started to call for the closure of Reid Gardner, we were told it couldn't be done," Vickie Simmons, of the Moapa Band of Paiutes Health and Environmental Committees, told the Las Vegas Sun. "Now, with this legislation, we are close to our goal. The coal plant that has for years poisoned our reservation will finally close and be cleaned up."

Even before the bill passed, California's DWR had made moves to divest from the plant by July of this year. DWR receives more than 200 megawatts of power from Reid Gardner, though that's only about 10 to 15 percent of its total consumption. As the agency responsible for pumping water through the State Water Project, DWR is the single largest user of electricity in California. DWR will replace the power it had been getting from Reid Gardner with purchases from the California Independent System Operator's grid and from a new gas-fired plant near Lodi.

NV Energy will be doing more or less the same to replace its share of Reid Gardner's power: SB 123 allows the utility to build and operate a new 550-megawatt power plant, which will almost certainly be gas-fired. That's in addition to a mandated 350 megawatts of renewable energy development. As NV Energy is pretty close to meeting its state renewable goals, much of that 350 megawatts of new renewables will likely be expected to deliver power to California, which is not necessarily the most airtight business plan.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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