Nevada Considers Cleaner Future...Sort Of
The Nevada State Legislature is considering a bill (Senate Bill 123) that would begin a modest distributed generation program (i.e. rooftop solar) in Nevada. This would normally be very good news. Even despite the modest size of the distributed generation program, any rooftop solar benefits in Nevada is a major step forward. Now the predominant state utility company in Nevada, NV Energy, plans to add an amendment to the bill that would (good news) retire coal plants early, and (bad news) increase natural gas generation.
|The Reid Gardner Coal plant pictured above is located next to a community of Moapa band of Paiute, polluting the environment and harming health with toxic emissions.|
The toxic Reid Gardner coal plant could be retired as early as 2017 if the plan is approved. This would be very good news because the residents of Moapa are burdened by the emissions of this coal plant, which was built along the Muddy River in an otherwise scenic corner of the Mojave Desert northeast of Nevada. But NV Energy also plans to increase natural gas generation facilities by as much as 2,000 megawatts, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The utility company may also purchase renewable energy from some of the more destructive sources, if not guided properly. Nevada has already permitted the construction of solar and wind facilities on intact wildlands, despite having already-disturbed lands available.
Nevada should has plenty of renewable resources, and ample opportunities to tap those resources for electricity without destroying more habitat. Plenty of rooftops lay barren without solar panels, and energy efficiency improvements alone could compensate for the loss of the Reid Gardner coal plant. Not only are these methods more sustainable from an environmental perspective, they are probably more cost efficient -- you do not need expensive new transmission lines, and you can invest directly in improvements in the community, instead of continuing the greedy and destructive centralized energy model.
The Nevada legislature has the right idea as it considers distributed generation. Hopefully Nevada does not spoil the moment with destructive natural gas, or end up wrecking the scenic landscapes that so many of us consider to be a treasure.
|Spirit Mountain, viewed from the Searchlight area in southern Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management approved a wind facility on pristine desert habitat here, which will industrialize the character of these lands and displace and destroy wildlife.|
|McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Notice the large amount of rooftop space without solar panels. All of that sun going to waste.|