Solar Project on the Hot Spot
LAS VEGAS, Nevada The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, state Sen. Randolph Towsend, on Wednesday questioned a representative of a solar power development company, Solargenix Energy, about its stalled plans to develop a 50-megawatt, solar thermal power plant in the Eldorado Valley outside of Boulder City.
Solargenix has been unable to arrange financing for the project, which would provide power to Nevada Power Co. and help the utility meet minimum requirements for renewable energy use under a 2001 state law.
The law directed Nevada Power and its affiliate, Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno, to obtain 5 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal, in 2003 and 2004. In addition, 5 percent of the minimum requirements must come from solar power sources under the law.
Nevada Power failed to satisfy the overall and solar requirements both years, and Sierra didn't meet the solar requirements.
The total gradually increases until it reaches 15 percent by 2013, but state officials are concerned that the utilities may not be able to comply.
While Townsend was critical of Solargenix, other developers also have encountered difficulty completing projects.
Of seven contractors, one paid a cancellation fee to the utility company, one went out of business and three are delayed. Earth Wind is behind schedule on a geothermal project in Elko County. Nevada Wind, formerly known as Ely Wind, has selected a new site for a wind farm and cannot obtain financing until it obtains permits for the new location.
Richard Burdette, energy adviser to Gov. Kenny Guinn, said he is confident about the Solargenix and Nevada Wind projects, saying they have negotiated "in good faith" with the utilities.
"I expect them to deliver," Burdette said.
Burdette said it was appropriate for the Commerce Committee to consider "how we'll pull the trigger on these contracts, and if they're delayed how we deal with these delays and how we terminate contracts that are not working."
Sparks-based Ormat Nevada has performed under contracts with the utilities for geothermal power plants. It was able to obtain $190 million in financing last summer by entering power sales agreements both with the Nevada utilities and with utilities in California, said Dan Schochet, company vice president and a member of the Nevada Task Force for Renewable Energy.
"Ormat has gone out and put its money where its mouth is," said Fred Schmidt, Ormat's attorney.
Schochet praised Nevada's renewable energy law.
"It really does work," Shochet said.
Gary Wayne, an executive with Powerlight Corp. of Berkley, Calif., agreed.
"Not only is the Nevada law not bad, we think it's the single best renewable energy legislation in the country," Wayne said. He is helping Colorado write regulations for renewable energy and the state is using Nevada's rules as a model.
The Legislature is considering a proposal to allow the state's investor-owned utilities, Nevada Power of Las Vegas and Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno, to satisfy part of the renewable energy requirement with energy conservation programs.
Already, other energy bills have been filed.
Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, introduced a bill that would establish a solar hot water pilot program for low-income households. The bill calls for the Welfare Division to transfer $1.5 million to the Housing Division for the program. The Housing Division would pay part of the cost of the solar hot water heater and Nevada utilities would provide the remainder. Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, is pushing a measure that would expand a program that provides utility rebates to residential, commercial and governmental customers who install solar photovoltaic systems.
It would continue the program for an additional three years and also double the amount of PV generation capacity allowed to 10 megawatts for the three years.
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