Renewable Energy Will Heat Up Nevada Prison

Waste cleared from Nevada’s forests will help fulfill the energy needs of the Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC) while saving the facility a projected $9 million-plus in energy costs over the next 20 years.

APS Energy Services, a subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp., and NNCC broke ground last week on the correctional facilities new Renewable Energy Center, which will include a wood-fired biomass boiler with a 1,000-kilowatt (kW) steam turbine generator and a 30-kW photovoltaic solar system. David Law, facilities manager for the Nevada Department of Corrections, said he started thinking about the possibility of using renewable energy as a way to save on utility costs 12 years ago. “It’s something you don’t think about but it’s a big expense to the tax payers,” said Law, noting the center will provide all the heating for the NNCC, including domestic hot water. The combined heat and power plant will utilize forest waste — wood chips — produced from forest-thinning operations in the Sierra Nevada to produce electricity, steam and hot water. Expected to be operational by spring 2007, the Renewable Energy Center will have the capability of producing up to 8 million kilowatt-hours of electrical energy per year. “This project works on every level imaginable,” said Lori Bagwell, Chief of Fiscal Services for the Nevada Department of Corrections. “Not only do we expect air and water quality in the area to be enhanced by providing an environmentally friendly way of disposing woody biomass, we foresee tremendous savings because the facility no longer will be dependent on the volatile costs of natural gas.” The forest waste material will be collected and transferred to Carson City Renewable Resources Inc. to be processed into a form capable of use at NNCC. The wood chips are burned under controlled conditions, with temperatures upward of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. This process produces levels of emissions well below state standards. “The demand for renewable energy projects continues to rise as technologies improve, utility rates continue to increase and we secure long-term fuel supply contracts,” said Jay Johnson, APS Energy Services’ Business Development Manager. The Renewable Energy Center, which will be manned 24-hours a day by NNCC inmates under staff supervision, will provide the full thermal requirements for the existing main boiler plant at NNCC. Excess electricity generated by the biomass plant will be purchased by Sierra Pacific Power Co. for use by its customers, creating a potential revenue stream for the projected $8.3 million center. “More companies are stepping up to provide immediate and long-term energy efficiency and renewable solutions. In addition to correctional facilities, we believe a project like the one at NNCC has potential applications at educational institutions, healthcare and industrial facilities,” added Johnson.


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