Tag Archives: Green Energy

Nevada’s Energy Future

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Debbie Donaldson (L) moderates a panel discussion on the future of green energy with Dr. Patricia “Pat” Spearman, Nat Hodgen, and Jessie Murray.

By Craig A. Ruark

Just before the opening of early voting, energy experts and elected officials told a pair of forums that ballot Question 3 presents a rare opportunity for both consumers and the industry to stake out winning positions for the future.

Question 3 would authorize the Nevada Legislature to “minimize regulations on the Energy Market and eliminate legal energy monopolies.” If approved by voters, it would have to be voted on again in 2018 before it could be implemented in 2023.

On October 19th, the Nevada Energy Star Partners Green Alliance held a panel discussion titled “Nevada’s Energy Future.” Debbie Donaldson, publisher of the Las Vegas Business Press, asked panelists Dr. Patricia “Pat” Spearman, Nevada Senator District 1; Nat Hodgen, executive director of the Southern Nevada Home Builders; and Jessie Murray, director of renewable energy projects for NV Energy, to describe the current energy environment and what we need to do to prepare for the future.

The three speakers, though diverse in their backgrounds, were part of the “New Energy Industry Task Force” that was initiated by Gov. Brian Sandoval and worked toward solutions to grid modernization, carbon emissions, distributed generation and storage, and clean energy sources.

Based on the Task Force’s research and discussions, several recommendations have been sent to the governor for the 2017 legislative session. In addition, a plan for grandfathering residential rooftop solar customers (those who were on-line or had applied to be part of the solar program as of Dec. 31, 2015), was approved by Governor Sandoval. It will take effect in December 2016 and expire November 30, 2036.

Senator Spearman said she is planning several bills for presentation during the 2017 legislative session.

“The technologies that we have right now and those that which are on the horizon are changing, literally, in a nanosecond,” she said. “We don’t have legislative policies in place to address the question about [energy] storage adequately. Because we don’t have policies in place that address an integrated energy system that customers want to go to.”  Spearman supports modifying the electrical grid to include distributive generation including geothermal and wind energy, and advocated for ‘out of the box’ thinking to prepare us for energy possibilities that are unthought of at this time.

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Rose McKinney-James, (L) moderates a panel discussion on ballot initiative Question 3 with Adam Kramer, John Hanger, Gary Aksamit, and Quentin Abramo, president of Faciliteq, representing small business.

On Oct. 20, Clean Energy Project, a non-profit organization, drew more than 100 people to the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas for a lunchtime session. The panel discussion was moderated by Rose McKinney-James, lobbyist and managing principal of Energy Works LLC, and included panel experts on distributive energy generation.

The topic title: “How will ballot initiative Question 3 ensure that clean energy development has a place in a well-regulated open market; and how will a restructured market ensure that all customers have the opportunity to access clean energy to power their homes and businesses?”

Adam Kramer, executive vice president of strategy for Switch, worked with environmental and consumer advocacy groups to develop the “Yes on Question 3” stance, answered: “The genesis of Question 3 is to deliver low-cost renewable energy to all Nevadans. As we begin talking about the restructuring and creation of a well-regulated open market, it is important that we do this in a way that is cognizant of the importance of renewables as well as the protection of all ratepayers here in Nevada.”

Switch along with MGM and Wynn Resorts have received approval from the Public Utilities Commission and to leave NV Energy’s grid. The Las Vegas Sands Corp. also filed an exit application that was approved by the PUC, but the company opted not to go forward.

John Hanger, an energy consultant and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, described this initiative from his perspective is “A huge opportunity for clean energy, but it is also an opportunity for customers.”

Hanger cautioned that there are two important pieces that must be in place both for clean energy and for consumers to make “the power of choice” option work:

  1. You need to have a real-time market monitor — ‘the cop on the beat’ of the retail and wholesale energy market to protect consumers. “The recent changes at FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] are important, but you also need a local cop,” said Hanger
  2. On the demand side of the market, the cleanest energy source is energy efficiency so if you empower consumers with smart meters and thermostats to control their demand, it will help their pocketbook and will also help the air quality and the environment.

Gary Aksamit, founder of Americans for Electricity Choice, offered a glimpse at what the market could look like after restructuring.

Using Texas as an example, Aksamit suggested that consumers check out www.TexasPowerToChoose.org, a clearinghouse database of all of the retail power providers in the state of Texas and competing for consumers. (Readers can put in the zip code 75094 to see how the site works.)

“Once into the website,” said Aksamit. “You are going to find between 150 and 250 offers for your business.”

The consumers in Texas have the opportunity to choose everything from 100 percent renewable energy to energy based on the lowest cost per kilowatt hour. Consumers are also able to lock in rates for whatever period they choose, with, of course, a penalty for early cancellation.

This type of open market program, according to Aksamit, allows the consumer to choose the type of power and the price point that fits their budget and lifestyle. The drawback to this program is with all the choices afforded to the consumers, not everyone is going to have the knowledge or want to take the time to wade through all of the options. In that case, many consumers may just accept what the local utility is offering and call it good.

The idea behind Question 3 is to offer choice to those consumers that want choice and to begin to prepare Nevada for a progressive energy future. That’s a planning process that Senator Spearman stated “must start now.”

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Solar projects gaining on commercial rooftops

The amount of solar energy that hits one square mile of Earth in one year is equivalent to the energy produced from four million barrels of oil. Of course, converting 100 percent of that solar energy is a difficult proposition given the fact that today’s rooftop photovoltaic technology is only capable of converting 15 percent of the Sun’s energy into electricity. However, many companies have committed millions of dollars toward capturing and utilizing as much of that solar energy as possible in order to offset their reliance on fossil fuel energy.

One such company is MGM Grand International, and its showpiece can be seen from the air as you pass over the Mandalay Bay. In August, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center will complete an expansion of the convention facility making it the fifth largest in the United States with 2.1 million square feet of space under a single roof.

The roof of that facility is already home to the second largest rooftop photovoltaic array in the world, and the completed expansion will increase the total number of panels to 21,324 and the capability to generate 6.5-megawatts of AC power, enough energy to power 1,300 homes. The electricity generated from this system will be used to offset 26 percent of the Mandalay Bay’s power demand. This, in turn, will also lower demand on the southern Nevada electricity grid at the hottest time of the day. The project diminishes the need to import energy from outside the local energy system and reduces energy costs for the entire Las Vegas system.

The project is a partnership between MGM International and NRG Energy, Inc., under an agreement where the Mandalay Bay property will purchase the power from NRG at a very competitive rate over the lifetime of the contract. This allows the hotel to predict the exact cost for 26 percent of its power use regardless of NV Energy’s rates.

In addition to generating power, this project also helps to clean the air by displacing approximately 6,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), emissions that would be generated from fossil fuel power plants. That is about the equivalent of taking the emissions of 1,300 automobiles off the road.

When the project was initiated in 2013, Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International stated, “Integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations has been a key pillar in MGM Resorts’ strategic sustainability plan. Partnering with NRG to install the solar rooftop at Mandalay Bay highlights a major milestone in our efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce our consumption of the planet’s limited resources.”

While there are few places in the U.S. with as much rooftop space as Mandalay Bay, rooftop photovoltaic systems are being embraced by Corporate America. Wal-Mart has been the quickest to go solar, with 105.1 MW of power currently installed on its stores. The company is working in California, Arizona, and a super store in Gardnerville, Nevada, and plans to be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. Kohl’s, Costco, and Ikea stores are also going solar on a nationwide basis, and collectively the three are generating 137.4 MW of power.

At the end of 2014, according to its Letter to Shareholders, SolarCity had 190,000 U.S. customers with one gigawatt of combined generated power. With Google’s backing, the company expects to install another 25,000 new solar households, generating another 500 MW of power.

In Nevada, SolarCity employs more than 1,000 customer service and installation personnel and installs between 12 and 20 rooftop systems per day.

According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “From now through 2016, the use of solar power is projected to increase faster than any other source of energy, both renewable and non-renewable.”

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/technology/solar-projects-gaining-commercial-rooftops#sthash.4b3QX4Me.dpuf