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April 16, 2014

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Vision for desert solar power plant expands

Developers of a solar power plant planned for Coyote Springs now say the plant will be more than a third larger than originally envisioned.

California-based BrightSource Energy on Tuesday announced an agreement to build a 960-megawatt solar thermal power plant within the Coyote Springs development, 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The company had previously planned a 600-megawatt solar thermal plant for the site.

The plant will generate electricity for the Nevada and California markets, the company said.

BrightSource specializes in concentrating solar thermal technology that uses sunflower-like towers of mirrors called heliostats to reflect the sun’s rays to a liquid-filled tower. The liquid is heated until it turns into a gas, which turns a generator.

The Oakland, Calif.-based company plans to use a dry-cooled power tower solar thermal system, which uses far less water than wet-cooling technology. The company’s tower-power concentrating solar thermal technology is also expected to use less water than dry-cooled trough-style solar thermal power plants, spokesman Keely Wachs said.

The Coyote Springs plant is expected to use about 67 million gallons of water per year. That comes out to about 74,000 gallons of water for every megawatt generated.

Wet-cooled solar thermal power plants use up to 2.6 million gallons for each megawatt. Solar photovoltaic plants use about 16,700 gallons to produce one megawatt.

BrightSource has several solar thermal power plants planned across the desert Southwest, including a 400-megawatt plant planned for public land just across the California border near the Primm golf course. Construction on that plant is expected to begin next year. The company has also applied for a lease on BLM land in the Apex industrial complex for a 1,200-megawatt solar thermal power plant, according to BLM records.

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SolarNV is hosting its fourth annual solar home tour next week in Southern Nevada.

The self-guided tour includes stops at four commercial properties and 16 residential homes with on-site solar arrays.

The event, which begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 3 at the Springs Preserve, is meant to educate Nevadans about renewable energy and how small-scale generation has been implemented in homes and businesses here.

It also allows homeowners to demonstrate steps they have taken to save money, water and energy in their homes and share these tips with others.

“The goal is to educate people about renewable energy and to inspire sustainable energy choices,” SolarNV President Deidre Radford said. “It’s also fun to see what others have done.”

Among the stops on the tour are the Lied Animal Shelter and the offices of the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, which has an urban wind turbine as well as a solar array.

Advance registration is required and available online at solarnv.org.

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A UNLV professor best known locally for research on children’s exposure to lead has been appointed to the board of directors of the Mickey Leland National Urban Air Toxics Research Center.

Shawn Gerstenberger, executive associate dean for the UNLV School of Community Health Sciences, was appointed to the board by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Mickey Leland center is at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. Its board of directors is appointed every six years by the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House and the president.

The research center’s mission is to conduct and fund research on the health effects of toxic air pollutants. Its research is meant to inform Congress about pressing air quality issues so it can create necessary legislation.

Gerstenberger is one of the nation’s leading researchers on the effects of lead in artificial turf and has published extensively on the harmful effects of lead in toys and other household objects. He also co-directs the Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in Southern Nevada, a partnership with the local health district that aims to identify and eliminate sources of harmful lead exposure in the community.

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