Green Nevada

I have briefly sung the praises of my home state of Nevada for being the second largest geothermal energy producing powerhouse in the United States. However, there is a good deal more renewable energy in Nevada than just its geothermal capacity. It should be noted that Nevada is the 32nd most populous state in the country, and over 80% of the state’s land is currently managed by the federal government. I see this as an opportunity to utilize sparsely populated areas to capture solar and wind energy across the state, thus bolstering both the state’s economy and its energy independence. In 2019, 85% of the energy consumed in Nevada was generated in a different state.

Primarily driven by solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric 28% of the energy produced in Nevada is renewable. If energy production in the state were to increase, this production composition would be far superior to the national figure of 11% renewable energy production. Another surprising figure about Nevada’s grid is that its third largest power plant by capacity is actually a renewable energy plant. This power plant is the Hoover Dam, with a capacity to produce 2,080 megawatts of energy. The largest geothermal power plant in Nevada is Steamboat Hills, who’s capacity pales in comparison to Hoover Dam at 84 megawatts. I will note however, that every megawatt of renewable energy is a contribution to a carbon free future.

Nevada is also the home for innovations in the sphere of renewables. In May of 2020, the Trump administration approved the construction of what will be the largest solar farm in the United States to be located just 30 miles outside of Las Vegas. This farm will have a capacity of 440 megawatts in its first, 11 square mile phase, and an additional 250 megawatts of capacity will be added during phase two. The projected generational capacity will be able to generate sufficient electricity to power 260,000 households. The energy generated here will also offset about 382 metric tons of carbon from being released into our atmosphere. However, like with the environmental draw backs of dams, this solar project also has consequences on the environment. Critics of this project indicate that this will severely and adversely affect the habitat of the desert tortoise, which is native to the area and already vulnerable.

Desert Tortoise, Photo credit: United States Geological Survey

Innovation in Nevada is not limited to its southern deserts. While southern Nevada can boast the largest solar farm in the U.S. (in the near future), northern Nevada already has something truly unique and groundbreaking. Located outside of Fallon is the world’s only triple hybrid renewable power plant. Enel Green Stillwater Plant combines geothermal energy with solar panels which produce solar energy the way described in my post here. The third part of this one-of-a-kind puzzle is the addition of solar thermal power. Solar thermal power is similar to binary cycle geothermal plant, using a working fluid heated by the thermal energy from the sun to create steam from water and rotate a turbine.

If there are any renewable developments in Nevada that you are excited about, leave a comment below!

2 thoughts on “Green Nevada

  1. Great post! The Stillwater Plant example is an interesting one. Geothermal is a relatively high risk investment because you cannot find out if there is a resource until millions of dollars are spent drilling wells. In Stillwater’s case, the geothermal resource was smaller than initially expected. Instead of trashing the project or going bankrupt, they added solar panels as a part of the PPA in order to be successful. It’s a great example of two different renewable energy sources working together. Thanks for posting!

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  2. Pingback: The Dark Side of Solar – Bolanowski Energy Blitz

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