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NV Energy Puts Off Coal Plant, Looks to Renewables, Natural Gas

Environmental and economic uncertainties have led NV Energy to postpone plans to build a coal-fired power plant as part of its Ely Energy Center project in eastern Nevada’s White Pine County. Held up for several years due to permitting issues, the company intends to move forward and seek faster approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to build a 250-mile transmission line that will link northern and southern Nevada.

Management said they will not reconsider building the coal plant until carbon capture and storage technologies are proven to be technologically and economically viable. Instead, the company is considering a variety of renewable power resources, as well as natural gas-fired plants. The proposed 250-mile transmission line will be designed to carry electricity from renewables and other power generation facilities in both northern and southern Nevada.

The Renewables Option

“We firmly believe the plentiful sources of renewable energy – primarily solar, geothermal and wind – that either already exist or most certainly can be developed within our state make it imperative that we press forward on an expedited basis with transmission facilities so that Nevada and its citizens can benefit from these resources as soon as possible,” president and CEO Michael Yackira said in a media release.

“The company has received numerous proposals for development of renewable energy in the state and has begun investing in renewable energy projects on its own. NV Energy further expects renewable energy projects to continue in the state for years to come. Because of this, we will request the PUCN to evaluate the transmission line separate from the Ely facility so that the line can be placed into operation no later than 2012.”

Delays in the Ely Center’s permitting and the need to meet current and projected future energy demand have also led the company to start construction of a 500-megawatt plant at the Harry Allen Generating Station and acquire the 598-megawatt Higgins Generating Station. Both burn natural gas, as does NV’s Tracy Combined Cycle Plant adjacent to NV’s Tracy Generating Station in the northern part of the state.

Completed last summer, the new Tracy plant, at 541-MW, is not only the largest plant built in Nevada since NV completed the Valmy Generating Station in 1985, it has the highest thermal efficiency of any plant in the state, requiring around 1/3 less natural gas than existing plants, according to NV.

“The new natural gas plants we’ve recently added and are in the process of constructing in Nevada are more efficient than other power plants from which we were previously buying or producing power, somewhat similar to buying cars that get more miles per gallon,” according to Yackira. “The result is that the overall costs of electricity today and in the years ahead will be less for our customers than they would otherwise have been by depending on the volatile markets outside of our state.”

NV Energy’s main subsidiaries– Nevada Power Co. and Sierra-Pacific Power Co.– provides electricity and energy services to some 2.4 million Nevada residents spread across a 54,500-mile service area.

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