Nevada aiming for 50% renewable energy by 2030

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Tonopah NV. Wikimedia Commons.
Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Tonopah NV

Major players in Nevada including NV Energy, environmentalist groups, casinos, and governments support 50% renewable energy in Nevada by 2030. Solar power is how it will happen. NV Energy will be building six new solar plants. One coal plant will be retired early. Batteries will provide storage for solar plants so electricity can sent into the grid at night too.

A bill gradually raising the portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030 has been re-introduced in the 2019 Legislature and has so far seen a much warmer reception than it did in 2017 with casino industry groups, chambers of commerce and NV Energy all publicly supporting the bill.

But the report, which is required to be submitted by any utility or power purchaser to the Public Utilities Commission annually, also hints at some potential issues for the utility’s ability to meet the credit requirement down the line, summarizing its outlook toward meeting the standard in the future as “cautious.”

To get to 50% renewable energy, all the solar projects need to be functioning efficiently. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project near Tonopah has been operational for four years. Production has been less than expected up until now. A salt leak shut it down for a while. However, production so far this year looks promising.

Planned energy output was up to 500 GW·h annually but real data place generation at about 200 GW·h/year, less than half. Total electricity supplied to the grid in 2018 was 207 GWh.

The project includes 10,347 heliostats that collect and focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through an approximately 640-foot (200 m) tall solar power tower. The molten salt circulates from the tower to a storage tank, where it is then used to produce steam and generate electricity. Excess thermal energy is stored in the molten salt and can be used to generate power for up to ten hours, including during the evening hours and when direct sunlight is not available. The storage technology also eliminates the need for any backup fossil fuels, such as natural gas.