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December 21, 2014

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NV Energy details its long-term renewables outlook

Beyond the Sun

The day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a federal initiative to open up federal land in the West to renewable energy development, NV Energy filed its three-year integrated resources plan that places emphasis on renewable energy and conservation instead of traditional energy sources.

The plan is the company’s 20-year estimates for growth and peak demand, as well as how to meet that demand. The document for the Public Utilities Commission is updated every three years to take into account economic and policy changes, NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira said.

By 2025 NV Energy is required by law to have 25 percent of its energy portfolio derived from renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar. An earlier law required the utility to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015.

Geothermal is the cheapest renewable energy, while solar is the most expensive, Yackira said.

The Interior Department has set aside seven solar zones on 150,000 acres in Nevada to be studied for their potential to house solar arrays. Seventeen other zones will be studied in California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. A total of 670,000 acres will be evaluated.

Last year, the utility hit 9 percent, meeting its mark. But a quarter of that came from its conservation programs, which is allowed by the state law.

“Conservation is becoming more of a buzzword,” Yackira said. “The cleanest kilowatt is one that is not produced.”

Upcoming is One Nevada Line, a 500 kilovolt transmission line to run north-south in the state. The company expects the line to be running by the end of 2012.

It would allow the state to use wind and geothermal energy collected in the north in Southern Nevada during summer months, while using excess solar energy from the south in Northern Nevada during the winter months.

NV Energy also wants to buy power from two solar projects and invest in the proposed China Mountain wind project, 40 miles southwest of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Solar Millennium’s Amargosa Valley solar project, with construction expected to start next year. The company also plans three utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants in Southern Nevada that are expected to create 15.5 megawatts of energy.

Solar holding facilities, which would provide solar energy when it is cloudy or dark, are also on the drawing board. Yackira said NV Energy intends to either invest in those plants or purchase energy from them.

On the conservation side, the company has so far reimbursed $8 million toward the installation of 400 home and business solar photovoltaic units through its SolarGenerations rebate program, Yackira said. Those units generate about two kilowatts per day each, about half the energy needs of an average home.

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