NV Energy

NV Energy Discovers Biomass is Green Energy

The Prospect has learned that NV Energy is trying to burn wood as a way of "greening" coal.

The company has tested adding wood to a coal burning power plant near Las Vegas. NV Energy hopes burning 5% wood will qualify the sulfur belching plant for green energy credit. The company has to produce 25 percent of its power though renewable energy and energy conservation by 2025. Burning a little tiny bit of wood in the coal plant might be part of their solution. The 30 day test, intended to see what changes would have to be made to the coal burning plant, will address issues such as emissions, processing and feeding, and purchasing and transportation costs.

However, burning a little bit of wood in a coal fired power plant isn’t what the Nevada legislature intended, and even the fervently pro-business and anti-environment Nevada Republicans aren’t happy about it.

Nevada District 4 State Senator Randolph Townsend, Washoe County GOP is quoted in the Las Vegas Sun as saying: "We’d prefer it was just a biomass capacity, not mixed with something that’s not renewable. That defeats the purpose, which is to encourage and incentivize renewable activity."

Randolph Townsend: Just not good enough! 
Senator Townsend Photo from his site

"Incentivize" is not a word, but besides that, it’s clear that NV Energy wants to meet the mandate as cheaply as possible, and the current effort doesn’t even convince Republicans.

The test used wood waste from burned over land in Arizona, which is 150 miles from the power plant. While burning wood in a coal plant does reduce sulfur emissions, trucking it so far decreases that advantage.

The project will burn 750 tons of material in 30 days. If the estimate of 5% wood is accurate, that means during the same period the plant will burn 15,000 tons of coal.

It isn’t clear that Nevada’s mandate on renewable energy requires the company to create the power in Nevada, or merely that power sold in Nevada is made from renewable energy. It is possible that NV Energy could buy or lease a wonderful biomass burning cogen plant we know of in Loyalton California. Not only does the plant come with a savvy manager and trained staff, it is embedded in a community which, for the most part, wants a renewable energy power plant, and is working to create a reliable flow of biomass. No special retrofitting is required.

Oh, wait! NV Energy had that source of biomass energy under contract, but devalued the resource and allowed the plant to close.

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