Solar, Geothermal Guides Nevada to RPS Goals

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) for Nevada utilities were revised in 2003, but that didn’t help Nevada Power catch up to the energy targets.

The company has struggled with its ability to list 7 percent of renewable energy resources as part of their power generating capacity by 2005. However, two solar photovoltaic (PV) projects and renewable energy credits from geothermal projects in the state should turn that struggle into a steady climb. There are more than 20 water reservoirs in the Las Vegas Valley, and many of them use electricity to pump water to the different districts. The Springs Preserve, a reservoir and educational area operated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD), will be the first of four reservoirs to start using electricity generated from a distributed 3.1 MW solar PV project in the Mohave Desert area. LVVWD Spokesman Bronson Mack said the array at the Springs reservoir is rated at 1 MW, and will have 2,712 Sharp panels. PowerLight of California is the developer for the project. Sites for the other two installations haven’t been decided on yet, though Mack said the US$22.6 million project consists of 17,616 panels and will use Xantrex inverters at each installation. Nevada claims to have over 340 days of sun every year, and only four inches of rain makes its way between the rays. PV will generate power without compromising the water supply that is trucked in from Lake Mead. “What we just have an abundance of is sun,” Mack said. “We’re hoping that this project will really jumpstart the other renewable projects that are underway in Nevada.” Plans for the PV arrays were in the works before Nevada Power missed the 2003 RPS target of 5 percent. The utility is supposed to have 7 percent by 2005 and 9 percent by 2007. LVVWD had partnered with Nevada Power as part of the utility’s plan to meet the targets, but Mack said many of the projects were delayed beyond the target date. Sierra Pacific Power (SPP) will help its sister company Nevada Power meet RPS targets for the state through geothermal energy. In July, SPP announced a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) purchase agreement for 20 MW of power to come from ORNI 7’s Galena Geothermal 1 plant. The announcement from Nevada Power about the three REC purchases stated that SPP will purchase power from three geothermal projects in the state. One company project that is ready to supply energy from a PV array to the state’s utility’s is the 250 kW system on the Your Vitamins facility in Henderson, Nevada. All of the purchase agreements together should give Nevada Power almost 7.5 percent of renewable electricity sources for 2005. Electricity from solar components are supposed to make up 5 percent of the total RPS goal. “Nevada has a tremendous amount of native renewable energy resources and legislation adopted by our state’s leaders has encouraged its development to meet Nevadans’ growing needs for energy,” said Roberto Denis, who is the vice president of energy supply for Sierra Pacific Resources. “This is a win-win for both the renewable developers, so they have incentive to keep building, and for our utilities who are committed to using renewable energy resources to serve customers.”
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