NV Energy dedicates first company-owned renewable project

Local electric utility NV Energy dedicated a first-of-its-kind power plant Friday, as company executives and state officials began looking toward December consumer sessions involving the company’s peak-pricing proposals.

The two events might not seem to go hand-in-hand at first glance, but they’re related in that they both signal NV Energy’s efforts to tread more lightly on the environment.

Start with that power plant.

The $22 million Goodsprings Energy Recovery Station, 35 miles south of Las Vegas along Interstate 15, claims a host of superlatives. It’s the first power plant in the Silver State to capture waste heat from a natural-gas compression plant. It’s also NV Energy’s first nonsolar green-power project, and it’s the first renewable plant that the utility actually owns.

And unlike many green-power sources, which wane when the wind dies or the sun sets, the Goodsprings plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Our Goodsprings project provides a reliable and consistent renewable energy source for our customers in Southern Nevada,” said Michael Yackira, NV Energy’s president and chief executive officer. “We are proud of the innovative nature of this project, as well as our company’s growing presence in the renewable energy arena.”

The 7.5-megawatt Goodsprings plant yields enough electricity to power about 4,500 homes.

It works off of a natural-gas compression station that the Kern River Gas Transmission Co. owns as part of a 1,680-mile gas pipeline running from Wyoming to Bakersfield, Calif. The center generates heat during compression, and it vents that warm air through three exhaust stacks. Green-power company Ormat Technologies installed valves inside each stack to divert the exhaust heat to a generating station next to the gas compressors. That heat turns a separate generator that then produces electricity. The plant uses dry-cooling technology to save on water.

Executives with both Kern River and Ormat were on hand for Friday’s dedication.

“Kern River is an advocate of increasing energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Kern River President Gary Hoogeveen. “We have been happy to collaborate with NV Energy and Ormat to recover the heat from our compressors and turn it into energy to be used by NV Energy’s customers.”

Added Yoram Bronicki, president and chief operating officer of Ormat Technologies: “We are pleased to have partnered with NV Energy in the design, supply and construction of the first recovered-energy generation facility in Nevada. This innovative, cost-effective project will contribute to the success of Nevada’s renewable energy economy.”

With Goodsprings, NV Energy now has 44 renewable-power sources in its portfolio. It already contracts or has arranged to buy more than 1,200 megawatts of power from developers of solar, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric and wind sources.

But renewable development isn’t the only approach NV Energy is taking to curb consumption of fossil fuel-generated power, and the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada wants your input on at least one additional step the utility plans to take to reduce conventional power use.

The utility hopes to launch an optional pricing program designed to encourage ratepayers to shift power use away from peak-demand hours by charging more for juice used on hot summer afternoons. Executives say moving at least some power load to off hours would help spare the company from expensive spot-market power buys and curb the need for ratepayer-funded investments in new generating plants.

NV Energy has asked the commission to OK a dynamic-pricing trial to test how variable power rates and accompanying informational campaigns would affect power use. Consumers who opt into the program would pay less for power used during off-peak hours. The company says any permanent programs crafted based on the trial would remain optional for ratepayers.

The commission has scheduled a Dec. 14 consumer session to let ratepayers speak their mind about the trial rates. The session is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside meeting room 102 at Cashman Convention Center, at 850 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

NV Energy will have executives on hand to discuss the trial with consumers.

“The upcoming consumer session gives us an opportunity to provide our customers with more information about the voluntary dynamic-pricing trial, and answer any questions they may have,” a company spokeswoman said.

Hearings on the pilot program are scheduled for early February. NV Energy looks to start the pricing trial on Jan. 1, 2012. Company officials told the commission in the summer that they hope to persuade 18,000 ratepayers to sign up for the test, though the trial would proceed if participation runs lower.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison
@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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