|It was an important year for renewable energy development|
|Written by Wild Nevada|
|Friday, 28 December 2012 15:29|
It was a big year for Nevada on the renewable energy front. The biggest headline was the implementation of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States (PEIS). The Nevada Wilderness Project and other stakeholders worked with the Bureau of Land Management and the departments of Energy and Defense to craft this document, which establishes the program guidelines for solar development on BLM lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
The PEIS identified 17 geographic areas within these states (six in Nevada) that have low cultural and natural resource conflicts and are close enough to electrical grid infrastructure to make them appealing to renewable energy developers. These so-called Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) are where the federal government hopes to concentrate solar development in order to avoid conflicts – such as wildlife habitat encroachment – on other federal lands.
A lot of these same stakeholders and agencies will continue working in 2013 on development of the Dry Lake SEZ Mitigation Project. The Dry Lake SEZ north of Las Vegas at the junction of Interstate 15 and Highway 93 is is America’s first attempt at truly preparing these SEZs for utility-scale power generation. The goal is to identify how development will affect resources within the SEZ and then then mitigate those impacts, either on the site itself or in the nearby region. With this work done, developers will find it easier and cheaper to get their projects up and running, and citizens will benefit when clean, endless naturally derived energy replaces dirty fossil fuel-derived electricity.
The PEIS is just one part of the Administration’s effort to create 10,000 megawatts of electricity using renewable energy sources on public lands. Under President Obama, the Department of Interior has authorized 18 utility-scale solar facilities, seven wind farms and eight geothermal plants. Interior is also allowing transmission lines to connect the facilities to the electrical grid. At build-out, these projects will supply the electricity to power more than 3.5 million homes. It is estimated that the effort will support 13,000 construction and operations jobs.
In Nevada, several projects went on line in 2012. The Silver State North photovoltaic solar facility south of Las Vegas and will produce approximately 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 15,000 homes, and Nevada’s first wind farm, the Spring Valley wind project east of Ely, now produces up to 152 MW – enough for the electrical demand of 45,000 homes. The McGinness Hills geothermal plant went into service in the summer and produces 30 MW of electricity. The Crescent Dunes solar concentration power facility is under construction and is scheduled to go on line in 2013.
The Interior Department plans to designate 20 solar, wind and geothermal power projects as “priority projects” in 2013. The classification signals that agencies will devote administrative resources to the necessary environmental review. “Priority project” status expedites the granting of the right of way to construct on public lands by year's end.
At the close of the year, as Congress contemplates the Fiscal Cliff within its Lame Duck session, questions about the extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy development have come into play. NWP has urged its elected officials to support an extension of the PTC to assure that the same subsidies to support economic development for the petroleum industry and for other renewable energy technologies continue to help the wind industry to become fully established.