Nevada adds gas plant as drought threatens power grids

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada utility regulators have given the state’s largest electricity provider the go-ahead to begin work on a $333 million project to build a natural gas-fired power plant in the state for the first time in nearly 15 years, setting off another major setback. shows drought conditions in the US Southwest

Two gas turbines being built north of Las Vegas by NV Energy are expected to start operating in July 2024 amid hotter summers and a longer wildfire season in a state that aims to have a carbon-free electricity grid by 2050. come in

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission approved the plans last week. It says the turbines are needed to meet peak electricity demand during the summer months, as sweltering conditions in the West put pressure on the region’s power grids and reduce power generation, including behemoth power generators on the Colorado River – dams Hoover and Glen Canyon Dam.

But environmental advocates say the turbines are a big step backwards for Nevada’s climate goals.

“Both the state and utilities have set strong goals for transitioning to renewable energy,” said Angeline Tabalba, spokeswoman for the Nevada Conservation League. “Instead of doubling down on fossil fuels, they should focus on a clean energy future.”

Mike O’Boyle, senior director of electricity policy at Bay Area-based Energy Innovation, said the commission’s decision underscores the growing tension in the American Southwest.

“When it comes to hydropower in the West, we’ve always dealt with annual variability. How much we have really depends on the snowpack and what happened in the winter and spring,” O’Boyle said. “It’s not a new issue, but the drought has exacerbated it. Unfortunately, it’s a situation is an important innovation that utility providers must plan for.”

At least 21 other states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, aim to reach 100 percent clean energy by the 2040s and 2050s, according to the Clean Energy Alliance.

But as those deadlines approach, scientists say drought has gripped the Southwest worst in 1200 years, putting a deep strain on the Colorado River. If the states do not begin to take less from the river, the large reservoirs threaten to fall to the point where they cannot generate hydroelectric power or to farms for other countries and cities, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

For example, last March Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona dropped below the critical limit, are raising new concerns about the Glen Canyon Dam, a power source that millions of people in the West rely on for electricity. If electricity production is stopped at the damrural, urban, and tribal electric cooperatives are forced to look for more expensive options that may include fossil fuels.

Nevada has already retired its largest coal plant, while the North Valmy Coal Plant is due to shut down its remaining units by 2025.

Another coal plant was expected to be converted to natural gas production by the beginning of this year. Representatives from TS Power, which operates the facility, did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking an update on the project.

About 60% of Nevada is now powered by natural gas and 30% by renewable energy sources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, natural gas is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

But NV Energy said the turbines would have minimal carbon emissions because they would only operate during the summer months, or about 700 hours a year, and thus would not impede the state’s carbon goals.

“Along with our commitment to reducing emissions, NV Energy is committed to providing reliable and affordable energy for our customers,” Cathy Naninini, a spokeswoman for the energy company, said in a statement. “This decision ensures that NV Energy can reliably provide energy for Nevadans, especially during the state’s hottest months, June through September.”

Once the plant is operational, ratepayers will foot the bill for the project, according to NV Energy’s plans submitted to the Public Utilities Commission.

The turbines will be built at Silverhawk NV Energy’s existing natural gas plant in Moapa, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Las Vegas. The Harry Allen Generating Station, also in Moapa, is the last gas-fired plant built by the energy provider in 2011.

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