Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs

Utah State University researchers show link between fierce California/Nevada drought and climate change

New research by Utah State University climate scientists has shown evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns of last winter and this spring, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East, to global warming.

This air pressure pattern, called a dipole, usually develops in the year before an El Nino event. According to the study, the strength of the dipole has been increasing since the 1970’s. The persistent dipole and subsequent drought in California is part of a natural variability related to the initiation of El Nino, but this relationship has strengthened in response to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Clean Energy Project helps you buy green

The Clean Energy Project will publish a Buy Green List on Earth Day, April 22. The Buy Green List is a free consumer guide to “give consumers in the Las Vegas Valley the power to reward businesses that have taken initiative in advancing the clean energy economy by supporting clean energy policies and adopting energy saving practices.” If your business is interested in being included in the Las Vegas Valley’s first Buy Green List, you can download the application HERE

DRI introduces new climate change “Green Box” for educators

Materials in the new box, designed for high-schoolers, will enable students to investigate how greenhouse gases affect air temperature, explore effects of different greenhouse gases, discuss connections between human activities and greenhouse gases and more. The climate change Green Box was created by Freda Vine, a highly regarded science educator at Clark High School in Las Vegas.

Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Pat Mulroy goes to Brooking Institution as climate change expert

Pat Mulroy, former executive director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, is joining the Brooking institution as an expert on water and climate change. The Las Vegas Sun reports that “the managing director of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said that his organization is ‘delighted’ to add former Southern Nevada water chief Pat Mulroy to its roster of experts tackling climate change.”

Bureau of Consumer Protection petitions for a separate rate class for net metering customers
The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection has petitioned the Public Utilities Commission to establish a separate ratepayer class for net metering customers. Solar advocates fear that this is a continuation of challenges to net metering by utilities across the nation, and say they will fight the petition.

Secretary Clinton to keynote seventh annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas

The Clean Energy Project announced last week that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver the keynote address at the seventh annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on Thursday September 4, 2014 at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

Catch Years of Living Dangerously on Showtime

Here’s what Showtime tells us about Years of Living Dangerously: “This groundbreaking documentary event series explores the human impact of climate change. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy to the upheaval caused by drought in the Middle East, YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of top Hollywood movie makers with the reporting expertise of Hollywood’s brightest stars and today’s most respected journalists.”

New Climate Hero: People who watched the first episode agreed that despite the presence of Harrison Ford, the star of the show was Texas Tech climatologist Katharine Hayhoe, who is an evangelical Christian. My friends who watched the show say that Hayhoe, challenged to explain climate change to her skeptical pastor husband and churchgoing friends, has come up with some of the clearest explanations of climate change they ever have seen.

Years of Living Dangerously has eight episodes, so try to tear yourself away for at least a couple of Sunday nights from the worlds of Don Draper and Daenerys Targaryen and watch something about your own world.

If you have any Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs, please send them to us. Happy Earth Day everyone -get out on your feet or your bike and enjoy it.


Recycling CFL bulbs in Nevada

Just in time for Earth Day

Articles about recycling are big around Earth Day (April 22) so we thought we’d add our effort and let you know how and where you can recycle compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL’s) and fluorescent tubing in Nevada.

This piece is prompted by a question that Speaker of the Nevada Assembly Marilyn Kirkpatrick asked SWEEP’s Howard Geller when he spoke about energy efficiency opportunities in Nevada to the Legislative Committee on Energy last week. The Speaker asked where and how her constituents could recycle the mercury-containing CFL bulbs.

Why CFLs?

CFLs’ use about a third the power of traditional incandescent bulbs and last eight to fifteen times longer. CFL’s are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but can save over five times the purchase price in energy savings. Here’s a page on the Energy Star website where you can calculate your savings from CFL and LED bulbs.

All that energy savings is good for the environment. According to Energy Star, in 2012 Americans saved $1.8 billion by switching to Energy Star-certified CFL and LED light bulbs. Changing these bulbs removes as much greenhouse gas pollution as planting 9.5 million acres of trees or taking 2 million cars of the road each year. The energy saved could light all households in a city the size of Washington D.C. for eight years.

About mercury

But CFL’s contain small amounts of mercury, a potent neurotoxin.

(Some parenthetical perspective: a coal-fired power plant produces 13.6 mg of mercury to power one 60-watt incandescent bulb, but only 3.3 mg to power an equivalent CFL. Even if the CFL has about 5 mg of mercury inside, using CFL’s results in 5.3 fewer grams of mercury per bulb than using incandescent lighting.)

Nevertheless, because of the mercury CFL’s are classified as hazardous waste, cannot be disposed of in regular household trash, and must be recycled.

To echo Speaker Kirkpatrick, where can we recycle CFL’s in Nevada?

A wealth of CFL recycling options

It turns out we have a wealth of options to recycle CFL bulbs.

Lowe’s recycles both CFL’s and tubes at no charge and with no limit on the number. Take the bulbs to the customer service desk.

Home Depot does the same. I asked the sales rep whether they have a limit to the number of bulbs people can bring in and he said, “Nope, people bring in boxes of them.”

Batteries Plus stores in both northern and southern Nevada accept CFL’s and tubes for recycling for a charge: the northern Nevada franchise charges 66 cents per bulb for CFL’s and 12 cents a foot for tubes; the southern Nevada franchise charges 35 cents a bulb for CFL’s and 50 cents per tube.

In Las Vegas, Republic Services accepts CFL’s at hazardous waste drop-off locations in North Las Vegas and Henderson.

What happens if you break a bulb?

A recycling guide put out by Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful has good advice on what to do if you break a CFL or fluorescent tube:

  • Open the window before doing any cleaning and leave open for at least 15 minutes to avoid inhaling mercury vapors. Exit and close the door behind you to prevent children and pets from exposure.
  • Wear rubber gloves and use a stiff paper towel or cardboard to scoop up broken glass and powder and put waste in a sealable plastic bag. Do not use a vacuum or a broom as dust will become airborne.
  • Thoroughly wipe down area with a damp cloth or paper towel.
  • Put everything used for cleanup in the plastic bag with the broken glass and powder. Seal bag. Put the sealed bag into a second sealable plastic bag.
  • Wash hands after cleanup. C
  • Contact the recycling resource in your community for collection sites that accept broken bulbs.

So there you go. – all you wanted to know about recycling CFL bulbs in Nevada.  Happy Earth Day.


Nevada Legislative Committee on Energy: full agenda, few legislators

Nevada Legislative Committee on Energy April 2014 meetingLas Vegas – The second meeting of Nevada’s Legislative Committee on Energy had a full agenda and empty chairs – only three committee members were present, and Senator Roberson left early, leaving Senator Atkinson and Assemblywoman Kirkpatrick to hold down the fort.

Though committee members were sparse, the public was not

A dozen citizens showed up in northern Nevada to tell the commission, in Janette Dean’s words, “it is not only our state’s great opportunity but also its very great responsibility to reach its full 100% capacity on renewable energy production as quickly as possible.”

In southern Nevada, another dozen activists showed up to support more robust energy efficiency efforts.

Chairman Atkinson thanked the citizens for coming, telling them, “we take these issues very seriously,” but in his view, “before we talk about what’s next we have to see what’s happening with what we passed in the last session.”

Not perhaps the sense of urgency that the citizens who’d taken the time to show up wanted to hear, since the window of action for mitigating climate change is narrowing, and Nevada’s potential for renewable energy development and energy efficiency is so large.

Net metering benefits may outweigh costs to consumers

The committee received an update on net metering studies in general and the one being undertaken in Nevada in particular. Nevada has a lot of company in evaluating its net metering polices: Jason Keyes from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council gave the committee a run-down on the dozens of other states that are reconsidering net metering and how they’re valuing the benefits of the system.

Assemblywoman Kirkpatrick, ever vigilant about her constituents’ electricity bills, told Keyes,
“At the end of the day I want to know what the effect on my constituents’ power bills will be.”

Keyes answered, “My guess is that the impact on rates of your current net metering program will be only a few cents either up or down.”

And this does not even include the societal and environmental benefits of net metering. With those added in, the effect of net metering may be positive for all Nevadans. PUC Commissioner David Noble told the committee Nevada’s net metering study should be completed by May.

Solar City talks jobs

Jo Ferriter and Dan Chai from Solar City gave what they called a “’virtual tour” of Solar City Las Vegas. Not surprisingly, they were bullish on solar energy in Nevada. Solar City opened its second headquarters last year in Las Vegas (the first is in San Mateo). Jo Ferriter told the committee the company now has 372 employees in Las Vegas and plans to scale up to over 1,000 jobs by the end of 2015. Dan Chia pointed out that the US solar industry now employs more workers than coal mining, auto manufacturing, and the US iron and steel industry.

Energy Efficiency: what about low-income customers?

Howard Geller from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project reminded the committee that Nevada has fallen from being a top-ranked state in energy efficiency programs, and suggested ways to jump-start the program.

Assemblywoman Kirkpatrick told Geller that her goal is to work with low income people first, especially landlords of multi-family housing: “Can we put together a program for landlords to incentivize effective energy efficiency improvements?”

Geller described a program they’re currently implementing in Colorado, and offered to work with the Assemblywoman on how a similar program might be carried out in Nevada.

The next meeting of the Nevada Legislative Committee on Energy is May 19.


Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs

Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs for week of April 1, 2014

Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefsRepublican Senator Dean Heller joins in bipartisan support of wind energy tax credit

The Federal Production Tax Credit for Wind Energy was an important support for the development of wind energy in this country before Congress allowed it to expire at the end of 2013. We are happy to hear that our Senator Dean Heller joined a bipartisan group of Congressmen in sending a letter to their leaders urging an extension.

Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefsNV Energy’s mPowered home energy management program now available in northern Nevada

NV Energy residential electric customers in Northern Nevada can reduce their heating and cooling costs and help lower peak energy demand by participating in the new mPowered program.  The program’s innovative technology can lower cooling costs for an average single family home by as much as 15 percent. Participating customers will receive a smart thermostat with online energy saving software free of charge. The service saves energy and maintains comfort by continuously adapting the operation of the customer’s heating and cooling (HVAC) equipment based upon how the home heats up and cools down, outside weather conditions and the customer’s comfort preferences.

Just out from WRA– A Toolkit for Community Clean Energy Programs

Community organizations can be key players in moving clean energy into the mainstream. NCARE partner Western Resource Advocates has just published a guidebook for community groups who want to advance clean energy in their communities. A Toolkit for Community Clean Energy Programs provides a practical toolkit for community organziations to work collaboratively to advance local clean energy programs.

Desert Research Institute partners with Google in climate mapping project

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Nevada’s Desert Research Institute has partnered with Google to map and monitor droughts in the United States, and water consumption worldwide. Part of the Obama administration’s climate change Initiative, the maps and tools created will concern heat, drought, flooding and sea-rise and will be available at

Google will donate a petabyte of cloud storage to host high-resolution maps, as well as 50 million hours of cloud computing on the Google Earth Engine environmental monitoring platform. The partnership will allow DRI to access the program for free. “A petabyte is signicant,” said Jim Thomas, executive director of hydrologic sciences at DRI. “You have to have that kind of capacity to store this data.”

DRI was one of three academic institutions chosen by Google to take part in the project.

We post Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs about once a week. Please send us any news items you may have.


Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Working Group 2 of the international Panel on Climate Change is tasked with evaluating the impacts of climate change and how we might adapt to it. Their report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability came out today. Here’s some of the take-away, with links to more information.

“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Shepherd and sheep in Tibet: A key risk of climate change is the loss of rural livelihoods, especially in the least developed countries. The impacts of climate change will be felt most strongly by the poor and vulnerable in all nations.

Here are key risks to human and natural systems that the working group has a high confidence will occur, based on the state of our knowledge so far:

food insecurity and the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes, particularly for poorer populations in urban and rural settings.

loss of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for livelihoods.
loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.
death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.
severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding in some regions. risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.
mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.
loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.
• Many key risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope.

“Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. “

This is a sobering list. Loss of ecosystems. Increased food insecurity. Ill health. Disrupted livelihood.

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

This chart from the IPCC shows projected temperatures with little or no mitigation efforts (orange) and projected temperatures with mitigation efforts (blue).

Yet the effects will be even worse if we do nothing to mitigate climate change by lowering global greenhouse gas emissions and undertaking other mitigation efforts. The Climate Change 2014 report says that while some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial levels, climate change risks become “ very high” with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more.

These risks include “severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities. The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping in human and natural systems increases with rising temperature .”

“The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change. “

But all is not lost.

The Climate Change 2014 report says that risks are reduced substantially with lower temperature rise. Climate change impacts may be less likely to overwhelm human and natural systems and might be easier to adapt to. But the sooner mitigation efforts are undertaken, the less dire the consequences of climate change.

This is a challenge, when few national governments are making even close to the efforts that will be needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is the task of everyone alive in the world today – and our governments – to make sure that the higher temperature rises do not occur. 

Here’s a link to a video about the Climate change 2014 report.
And here’s a link to a page where you can download the full Climate Change 2014 report or a summary for policymakers.

More on the IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

The IPCC reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socioeconomic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. Thousands of sicentists from throughout contribute to the IPCC”s work (on a voluntary basis)
It is the role of the IPCC to inform governments about the most up-to-date scientific knowledge on an issue and, where appropriate, to highlight policy options to overcome challenges, but the IPCC never promotes one set of policy options over another.

The Assessment Report and the three working  groups

The decision to prepare a Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with three Working Group contributions and a Synthesis Report was taken by the member governments of the IPCC at their 28th Session in April 2008.
Working Group II assesses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change, while Working Group III assesses the mitigation of climate change.. Working Group I deals with “The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change”, Working Group II with “Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” and Working Group III with “Mitigation of Climate Change”. A Synthesis Report will draw on the assessments made by all three Working Groups

What does Working Group 2 do?

The IPCC Working Group II (WG II) assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands).


Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs

Carson City, March 28, 2014:

Western Resource Advocates hires new Executive Director

NCARE partner organization Western Resource Advocates announced this week that Jon Goldin-Dubois will be its new President, beginning June 2014.  Goldin-Dubois will lead the organization in meeting  its mission of protecting the West’s land, air, and water with an emphasis on addressing climate change. “Western Resource Advocates is the recognized leader in developing solutions that cut carbon pollution, increase investments in renewable energy, and preserve Western lands and rivers,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois. “I look forward to teaming up with our expert staff to protect the West for future generations.”

Clean Energy Project reports on what’s happening with renewables in Nevada

Nevada clean energy and climate change news briefs

Bipartisan event: Governor Sandoval and Senator Reid join CEP and other renewable advocates at event touting Nevada as clean energy hub. photo courtesy CEP

Nevada’s CEP just came out with a brief report, Renewable Energy Powers Silver State as a Clean Energy Hub, that’s a good, quick overview of the state of renewables in the state. Some take-away:

  • Clean energy investment in Nevada has accelerated rapidly in the past five years and is now well over a $5 billion investment in Nevada,
  • Acknowledging the state’s importance to clean energy, the wind, solar, and geothermal energy industries will each hold a major annual event in Nevada this year.
  • With numerous utility-scale, residential and commercial solar projects, Nevada is one of the top ten states for installed photovoltaic solar, and one of the top three states for installed concentrating solar power.
  • With 32 operating geothermal power plants producing 566 MW of clean, renewable power, Nevada currently produces more geothermal energy than any other state in the U.S. except California.

Climate change education: Nevada yes, Wyoming heck no

Nevada’s state board of education has voted unanimously to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards for public schools, becoming the fifth state to do so.

What does this have to do with clean energy and climate change?

The new science standards include climate change. According to Digital Learning Environments, “The authors of the standards believe that climate change is one of the most important aspects of science today. They believe that there is no question as to the validity of the subject. Climate change is happening, and humans are the cause. And one of the most important points is that the students of today will be the ones who will have to deal with the effects of climate change. They will need to develop the skills, knowledge, and background to be able to understand climate change.”

The Wyoming legislature – where not coincidentally fossil fuel revenues make of 70% of the state’s revenue – didn’t like this very much, and State Representative Matt Teeter introduced a last-minute budget resolution to prevent the Wyoming State Board of Education from adopting the standards. Teeter is quoted in the Casper Star Tribune: “The Next Generation Science Standards treats man-made climate change as settled fact,” he said. “We are the largest energy producing state in the country, so are we going to concede that?”

Well that’s calling a spade a spade. It would be nice if other climate change deniers were so honest.  A coalition of Wyoming parents has formed to try and reverse the decision.



Get ready for Crescent Dunes CSP

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) project in Tonopah slated to open this year

Concentrating solar power uses fields of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a structure in which the solar heat is  collected to generate electricity. Unlike the more common photovoltiac (PV) solar energy technology – the kind found on rooftops – CSP has the capacity to store energy, in the form of heated material, so electricity can continue to be generated after the sun sets.

How does concentrating solar work?  A picture is worth a thousand words, and we found this great video that gives us the story on Crescent Dunes CSP.


More than 800 megawatts of CSP plants currently operate in the United States. Four new CSP plants, including Crescent Dunes CSP and the recently-opened Ivanpah plant in California’s Mojave Desert will soon increase the total CSP capacity in the United States to 1.8 gigawatts. These new CSP plants will provide enough electricity for nearly half a million homes.

Crescent Dunes CSP  is expected to generate 485,000 megawatt hours per year, enough to power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity usage periods.

In a recent project update video, Solar Reserve’s site manager Brian Painter says, “Crescent Dunes will be a game changer. This plant can do anything any other power plant can do, but with this power plant there’s no fossil fuel involved – it’s strictly the power of the sun.”

Here’s a picture of the almost-completed Crescent Dunes CSP project. The plant is in the commissioning phase now – testing and calibrating the various systems from the heliostats to the steam turbines – and is expected to go online in the fall.

Aerial photo of Crescent Dunes CSP project, January, 2014. Photo courtesy SolarReserve

Aerial photo of Crescent Dunes CSP project, January, 2014. Photo courtesy SolarReserve


Drought in the American West

Wild Western climate

On March 13, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Carson City was in extreme drought, along with much of northwestern Nevada.

drought in the American west ancestral puebloan ruin in Cedar mesa Utah photo chas Macquarie

Ancestral Puebloan ruins, Cedar Mesa, Utah: photo Chas Macquarie

So I’ve been reading about drought in the American West, and I discovered the answer to some long-time mysteries. First, there are the tree stumps sticking out of the water in Tenaya Lake in Yosemite. The stumps sit about fifty yards off the beach in water so deep you can’t see the bottom. How did they get there?

The other mystery is the ancient adobe granaries perched on canyon walls in southern Utah. It was impossible not to notice, even for someone as unobservant as I was as a teenager, that the people who built their granaries way up the canyon walls must have been afraid of something.

Learning from paleoclimatology

Since my youth spent wandering around the various wilderness areas of the American west, the science of paleoclimatology has developed and those mysteries now have answers.
The trees now submerged by 70 feet of water grew there when Tenaya Lake dried up, probably around 800 years ago, in a period known as the medieval drought, or medieval climate anomaly. The medieval drought lasted 500 years (interrupted in the middle by a 100-year wet spell).

And the granaries? That same severe drought destroyed the civilization of the Ancestral Puebloan people of the southwest canyons. As the climate dried, desperate people hoarded their remaining food in spots as inaccessible as possible, to defend it from other desperate people.

wild climate - flood and rought in the American west

Sacramento’s K street during great flood of 1861-62. Lithograph courtesy Wikipedia

Paleoclimatology tells us that the climate of the American West is one of regular drought and floods – including droughts lasting hundreds of years and floods big enough to turn California’s Central Valley into a lake, as happened in the great flood of 1861. The 150 years since European American settlement have been relatively benign climate-wise, but there is no assurance that will continue. And when mega droughts do come again, it will be to a region where millions of people now live.

Is this our future?

Human-caused climate change is expected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts in the American west. In The West Without Water, B. Lynn Ingram writes, “The American West faces a climatic future that is predicted to become generally warmer and drier, with deeper droughts interspersed with larger and more frequent floods. The American West appears to be facing a potential climatic double-whammy: a cyclical return of drier conditions and new greenhouse-gas-induced warming.”

With this emerging understanding of our wild western climate, it is clear that we need to be planning for drought and conserving what water we have. Curious about how Carson City is doing in the current drought, I talked to Curtis Horton, Chief of Operations for Carson City’s water system, and David Bruketta, Carson City Utility Manager.

They told me about 95% of our water is from municipal wells and 5% is surface water.
How are those water supplies affected by the current drought? Curtis said right now we’re in good shape, though if the drought lasts another five years we could be hurting. The immediate effect of the drought is that we will lose our surface water earlier this year and will rely more on municipal wells. But the City has just completed a Regional Intertie project bringing water from the Minden area to Carson City. Components of the Intertie are operational but it will be a few more years before it is complete. This water will help us out in current and future droughts.

I asked if the City has done any long-range planning regarding maintaining adequate water supplies during multi-year droughts. The Regional Intertie, David said, is part of that long-range planning, and our water system, with the addition of the Regional Intertie, should support population growth to around 70,000 people.

Better off than Las Vegas – for now

Compare this to the predicament of Las Vegas, where the Water District is constructing a so-called “third straw” in Lake Mead – a third domestic water intake, at a cost of $800 million, for when the level of Lake Mead falls below the first two.

And still, some climate scientists estimate that with predicted reduction of runoff in the Colorado River Basin, “there’s a 50% chance that both Lake Mead and Lake Powell could reach ‘dead pool,’ rendering them useless for hydroelectric power generation or useful water storage by as early as 2021.”

In Carson City we’re much better off than that – for now.

(This post by blog editor Anne Macquarie was originally published in the Nevada Appeal under the title “Drought packs a heavy punch for the West” on Wednesday, March 19, 2014)


Energy in Nevada: Tale of three power plants

Energy in Nevada – Do you know where your electricity comes from?

Energy in Nevada – the lights turn on when you flip the switch. So does the computer if you even bother to turn it off anymore. And yes, we do, most of us, have at least some idea of where our electricity comes from. It comes from those power plants somewhere – well, somewhere out there.

Last week while driving along I – 80 on my way back from Utah, I decided to take a look at some of the generating stations out there. It was surprisingly easy to get really close to these big industrial facilities. In fact, at Beowawe my husband wandered inside the control room to ask if the road we were on would eventually rejoin I-80. The plant operators at the remote facility were startled to see him, and gave him directions to Battle Mountain.

Geothermal energy in Nevada: Beowawe Geothermal Power Station

Geothermal energy in Nevada: Beowawe power station

Beowawe geothermal power station: photo Anne Macquarie

Beowawe is one of 19 geothermal power plants in Nevada that provide electricity to NV Energy customers under power purchase agreements with the company. Together, the plants provide over 385 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity. NV Energy also has contracts for another 150 megawatts of geothermal power from plants either planned or under construction.

Beowawe is one of the smaller geothermal plants in the state, with a 17.7 megawatt capacity. Owned by Beowawe Power LLC and operated byTerra-Gen Power, Beowawe started producing energy in 2006. The company’s power purchase agreement with Sierra Pacific Resources expires in 2025.

The Beowawe plant was named Geothermal Project of the Year in 2012 by Renewable Energy World for “the first commercial use of a low temperature bottoming cycle at a geothermal

Geothermal energy in Nevada: Beowawe geothermal power plant

Beowawe is a combined binary, bottoming-cycle and double-flash geothermal plant. Photo Anne Macquarie

flash power plant in the United States.”

According to NV Energy, “Geothermal power is a premium renewable energy source because it provides reliable, around-the-clock power with no specific ties to fluctuating fuel costs.”

The production of electricity from geothermal energy emits few greenhouse gases compared to fossil-fuel-fired electrical generation. The EPA shows no greenhouse gas emissions from Beowawe in 2012.

Geothermal energy in Nevada: Beowawe geyser in 1971

Beowawe geyser in 1971: Photo courtesy Northeastern Nevada Museum

The Beowawe plant did, however, destroy the Beowawe geyser field, one of only two geyser fields in Nevada, when it became operational. Nevada’s other geyser field, the Steamboat Geyser Field south of Reno, was also destroyed by geothermal development.

Beowawe is located in Eureka County a few miles west of the former hamlet of Beowawe.


Coal energy in Nevada: North Valmy Generating Station

Coal energy in Nevada: North Valmy Generating Station

North Valmy generating station: Photo Anne Macquarie

The North Valmy generating station is a lot bigger than Beowawe, and it is powered by coal shipped by railroad from mines in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Valmy is jointly owned by NV Energy and Idaho Power.

The North Valmy Generating Station is a coal-fueled, steam-electric generating plant with two operating units. Unit No. 1 went into service in 1981 and Unit No. 2 went into service in 1985.

Both Valmy units combined have a capacity of 522 megawatts. NV Energy says the plant can produce enough electricity to serve approximately 315,000 Nevada households.

NV Energy and PUCN disagree about Valmy retirement date

When, as required by SB123, the last unit of the Reid Gardner coal-fired plant in southern Nevada closes by the end of 2019, Valmy will be the only remaining coal-fired power plant in Nevada.

The retirement date for the Valmy plant was the subject of an interesting discussion in Nevada Public Utilities Commission testimony last December, when NV Energy argued for an earlier closure date than the PUC was willing to allow. PUC and Bureau of Consumer Protection staff argued that the company’s plan to close Valmy Unit 1 in 2021 would mean that higher annual depreciation costs would be borne by NV Energy customers. Commissioners agreed, and directed the company to move back the older Unit 1’s closure date to 2025, which is the proposed closure date for the newer Unit 2.

NV Energy argued that earlier closure of the unit made much more sense in the prospect of eventual greenhouse gas and other pollution regulations – in fact, they said closing down the plant by around 2019 made the most sense – but commissioners told them that “issues that may arise from future legislation and/or environmental regulations” were only “hypothetical” and should not be considered.

coal energy in Nevada: North Valmy Generating Station

A closer view of North Valmy: photo Anne Macquarie

It appears the PUCN and Bureau of Consumer Protection are more concerned about temporarily providing NV Energy customers with lower rates by stretching out the depreciation period for an aging coal-fired power plant than they are interested in helping to protect those customers – and everyone else – from the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the EPA Total CO2 (equivalent) emissions in metric tons in 2012 from North Valmy were 1,579,682 metric tons. This makes Valmy the third-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, behind only Reid Gardner and the Lenzie natural-gas-fired generating station in southern Nevada.

North Valmy is located a few miles northwest of the tiny town of Valmy in Humboldt County.

Natural gas energy in Nevada: Frank A.Tracy Generating Station

natural gas energy in Nevada: Tracy Generating Station

Frank A. Tracy Generating Station: photo Charlie Macquarie

Tracy is not as remote as Beowawe and Valmy, in fact, it’s impossible not to notice it. Located alongside I-80 about 17 miles east of Reno, the Frank A. Tracy Generating Station is “a multi-technology natural gas-fueled power plant complex that includes 12 generating units. The newest and largest addition consists of two highly efficient General Electric combustion turbine generators, similar to the turbines that power jet airplanes. The exhaust from these two units is then recycled to power a separate steam turbine .”

Peak generating capacity at Tracy is 1,021 Megawatts.

In 2012 Tracy emitted 1,548,686 metric tons of CO2 (equivalent) (EPA), making it the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the state.


Local Businesses: Nevada, stop wasting energy

Newly Formed Business Coalition Demands Nevada Stop Wasting Energy

newly formed business coalition demands Nevada stop wasting energyLAS VEGAS – On March 6th, dozens of Las Vegans joined with local businesses owners at the Las Vegas Cyclery to demand more attention be put towards energy efficiency in Nevada. The group released a coalition letter signed by 30 local businesses calling on the Nevada State Legislature’s Interim Committee on Energy to study energy efficiency performance in the state. At the press conference, the energy efficiency advocates cited a report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy where Nevada’s energy efficiency performance fell from being ranked 15th in the country to 33rd between the years 2008 and 2013.

“Our message today is clear. Nevada can and must be a leader in energy efficiency,” said Tom Kroplinski, owner of the Art Box in Downtown Las Vegas. “We’ve been taking steps in the right direction to protect our health and our environment by moving beyond coal. Las Vegans want to ensure that we can continue to take steps in the right direction towards a fully clean energy economy. Improving our energy efficiency performance is the first step.”

The press conference was held at the Las Vegas Cyclery, a Green Business owned by Las Vegas local Jared Fisher. Fisher spoke about the benefits of owning an energy efficient business. “Trying to move to clean energy without energy efficiency is like trying to lose weight while still eating Big Macs. Cutting back on our energy consumption in a necessary step in moving beyond fossil fuels.” Jared and Heather Fisher were lucky enough to invest in efficiency when building up their business. Not all business owners in Las Vegas have the means to make those investments on their own.

“The City of Las Vegas’s backslide on energy efficiency standards are causing confusion in the building industry as they don’t meet state standards,” said Jenifer Turchin, Project Manager at Sellen Sustainability. “Nevada has enormous potential to be a leader in energy efficiency but when standards are jurisdictionally changed without input from industry it sets the whole industry sliding backwards.” Turchin said that the first step in energy efficiency standards is conservation which is the cheapest and easiest option to keep energy rates low.

Advocates emphasized that every home, office, public building, and factory can cut energy waste by installing advanced lighting, heating and cooling systems, or appliances, but that these costs should not fall solely on the home or business owner. Energy saved helps every utility customer, because lower use means the utility doesn’t have to invest in large new energy supply projects that drive up rates.

Last June, legislators passed SB 123, which included a timeline to retire the Reid Gardner Coal Plant in Moapa, Nevada by 2017. The bill also mandated NV Energy to build 350 MW of new renewable energy, and allows up to 550 MW of “flexible power,” which could be anything from fossil fuels like natural gas to clean energy options like geothermal or energy efficiency.

“SB 123 was a major victory for our environment and our economy in Nevada,” said Tom Kroplinski. “We cannot look back to more fossil fuels like natural gas. We’re urging our legislative leadership to study how we can do better, and prioritize putting Nevada’s energy efficiency performance back on top.”