Coal Being Phased Out in Nevada

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NV Energy's coal-fired Valmy Power Plant | Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Looks like the campaign to wean ourselves off burning coal to create electrical power has caught on in California's neighbor to the east. The largest utility in the state of Nevada, NV Power, proposed a plan Wednesday by which it would shut down its two coal-fired generating stations by 2025.

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The plan was offered in the state's legislature as a proposed amendment to Nevada Senate Biil 123, which would revise a number of energy policies affecting the state.

NV Energy already plans to close down its 522-megawatt Valmy plant in northern Nevada, which it co-owns with Idaho Power, by 2025. This week's announcement concerned the utility's 553-megawatt Reid Gardner Power Plant, discussed earlier on reWire, which looms over the Moapa Paiute reservation and has been implicated in a number of illnesses among tribal members.

NV Energy has planned to phase out Reid Gardner for a while, and that plan was reinforced when the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced it would sell off its stake in the plant as part of its campaign to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. (DWR is a major consumer of electrical power to run the pumps that keep California's aqueducts full.) Under the proposed amendment to SB 123, which the company is calling its "NVision" plan, the final shutdown of Reid Gardner's Unit 4 would be moved forward from 2023 to 2017. Units 1 through 3, at 100 megawatts each each less than half the size of the 255-megawatt Unit 4, would be shuttered as soon as next year, rather than the original plan of 2020.

As a final plank in NV Energy's NVision platform, the utility would sell off its 11 percent stake in the Salt River Project's Navajo Generating Station in northeastern Arizona. (ReWire readers may recall a recent announcement that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is also getting rid of its 21 percent stake in Navajo.)

In order to replace the power that's now supplied by the three coal plants in question, NV Energy wants to develop about 2,600 megawatts of new generating capacity in the state. Around 600 megawatts of that will be renewables of some kind, with the rest made up of natural gas-fired plants. That last part's got some environmental advocates worried: the Silver State is the focus of recent attention from energy developers curious whether the state's vast desert valleys might be amenable to fracking for gas and oil. NV Energy is already heavily into gas-fired plants, with 5,129 megawatts of capacity in seven power stations across the state.

The Sierra Club, active in the state via its Toiyabe chapter, wants NV Energy to focus less on gas and more on conservation and renewables. "Energy efficiency can put money right back into the pockets of consumers every month," said the club's Jane Feldman in a press release. "And if we build more renewable energy, costs remain stable for decades because the fuel costs for solar, wind and geothermal are free."

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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