Nevada spent $11 billion on energy in 2008 -- most of that money left the state

Nevada is the fastest-growing state in the country in terms of population -- and in electricity consumption as well. Nevada spent more than $11 billion on coal, natural gas, petroleum products, and other fuel in 2008, and most of that money left the state.[1][2] Nevada lawmakers have acted quickly to find a smarter way to power the state, with locally produced renewable energy. Flooded with more than 250 days of sunshine a year, Nevada has the greatest solar energy resources in the country, and has abundant wind and geothermal energy potential to boot.[3] The state legislature enacted its first renewable portfolio standard in 1997, and has raised the bar several times since then. The current standard requires utilities to generate 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, with 6 percent to come from solar energy by 2016.[4]

Developing Nevada's own energy resources could also be powerful tool for economic development, especially in rural areas where many have lost jobs. A UNLV study for the state's Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Task Force estimates that generating just 7 percent of Nevada's electricity from in-state renewable sources will create more than 2,500 jobs and generate $310 million in revenue each year. At 15 percent, the job tally would top 5,000, and annual revenues would reach $665 million.[5]

Solar Energy

Solar Panels

With 250 days of sunshine each year, Nevada could be the top solar power producer in the country

Southern Nevada is among the best places in the world to collect solar energy, and Nevada is already harnessing the sun's rays on a grand scale. Nevada produces more solar power per person than any other state in the country.[6] The 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One power plant, near Boulder City, is the fifth largest concentrating solar plant in the world. Online since 2007, the 400-acre plant produces enough energy to power 14,000 homes. Building the plant created 800 construction jobs and 30 permanent operations jobs.[7]

Thirteen solar projects are in various stages of development across the state, expected to bring in another 2,000 megawatts of solar power capacity by 2014. Plans include large concentrating solar plants, such as Bright Source Energy’s 400-megawatt solar thermal plant at Coyote Springs, as well as smaller-scale arrays, such as Fotowatio’s 37-megawatt solar photovoltaic station outside Las Vegas.[8]

Solar Trust of America’s 500-megawatt Amargosa Farm Road plant in Nye County, Nevada, will include thermal salt storage technology, which will keep the plant running up to four hours after the sun goes down. Company officials expect the plant will create 1,300 construction jobs and 180 permanent jobs in Nye County.[9]

Many of Nevada's residents, small businesses, public buildings and schools are producing their own solar energy, mostly under the auspices of the state's SolarGenerations rebate program, which has encouraged the installation of more than 8 megawatts of photovoltaic systems. The program pays out millions of dollars in rebates each year.[10]

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal engineers

Generating 7 percent of Nevada's electricity from local renewable sources will create more than 2,500 jobs and generate $310 million in revenue each year

Prospectors once eyed Humboldt County's Blue Mountain, in northwestern Nevada, as a potential source of gold. But the mountain's true riches turn out to be a more sustainable commodity (and one that's far less polluting to extract). A geothermal power plant at Blue Mountain taps into boiling hot water just beneath the earth’s surface, converting it into electricity for 40,000 homes.[11]

Nevada's geothermal output is second only to California. The state’s 14 geothermal power plants have a combined 426 megawatts of electric production capacity,[12] which over the course of a year provides about 7 percent of the state's electricity.[13] Geologists in Nevada have identified numerous geothermal "hot spots" where boiling hot water, heated by liquid magma from the earth's interior, lies near the earth's surface. Tapping into these reservoirs could produce 1,500 megawatts of power by 2015, according the Western Governor’s Association.[14] Next-generation enhanced geothermal technology could produce even more energy. According to, a major investor in this technology, using a mere 2 percent of Nevada's enhanced geothermal resource potential could yield some 146 gigawatts of new electrical capacity[15] -- enough to power nearly 15 percent of the entire United States.[16]

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol

The best biofuels protect the environment and food supplies while improving the economic welfare of workers and communities. Nevada doesn’t have the potential to grow energy crops on a large scale, but the state could still produce up to 250,000 dry tons of biomass each year, mostly from urban wood waste around Las Vegas and forest and mill residues from Douglas County.[17] This cellulosic biomass could be used to produce about 20 million gallons of ethanol, which could replace about 1 percent of the gasoline used in Nevada. There is also a biodiesel production facility in Douglas County, and two more facilities under construction in Lyon County and Las Vegas.[18]

The Nevada Division of Forestry currently collects wood waste from federal and state lands and delivers them to a co-generation plant at the Northern Nevada Correction Center (NNCC) in Carson City. For instance, 75 tons of woody biomass from burn piles at Indian Creek Reservoir have been diverted to fuel NNCC's boiler at a cost of approximately $5 per ton, a fraction of the $39 per ton that NNCC had been paying through contract suppliers. Roughly 32 tons of biomass were delivered to NNCC from Sugar Pine State Park in California's Lake Tahoe Basin at a similar savings.[19]

The David E. Norman Elementary School in Ely replaced its oil-fired burner with a clean-burning wood pellet system in 2006.[20] The plant heats the original school building and two additions using approximately 150 tons of biomass per year,[21] saving the school 40 percent of its former heating expenses. The fuel comes from wood waste supplied by the Bureau of Land Management and the county landfill.[22]

Wind Energy

Nevada has the potential to meet more than half its electricity needs through wind energy, but it has yet to produce any.[23] Several wind projects are in various stages of development, totaling about 800 megawatts of power.[24] Some projects have come under fire for being poorly sited in environmentally and/or culturally sensitive lands.[25]

Renewable Energy Meets Wildland and Wildlife Conservation

Certain sensitive lands -- such as parks, monuments and wildlife conservation areas -- and ecologically sensitive marine areas are not appropriate for energy development. In some of these places, energy development is prohibited or limited by law or policy, and in others it would be highly controversial. NRDC does not endorse locating energy facilities or transmission lines in such areas. Siting decisions must always be made extremely carefully, with impacts mitigated and operations conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

For more information on the intersection between clean energy development and wildland and wildlife conservation in the American West, including locations of parks, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas, see this Google Earth-based feature.


Economic Incentives for Renewable Energy Projects in Nevada

Nevada has a number of financial incentives for renewable energy projects, including consumer rebates, property tax abatements and exemptions, and a renewable energy sales and use tax abatement. See the complete listing of federal, state and local government incentives in the DSIRE database.

The State Office of Energy also lists renewable energy incentives, including grants for schools, state buildings and a revolving loan fund.

Utility NV Energy provides rebates for consumers through its Renewable Generations program.

Wind Energy

The American Wind Energy Association has general information about small-scale wind power.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory publishes consumer guidebooks to small wind energy for every state, including Nevada.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America website provides a helpful list of resources for potential wind power developers, including a Nevada wind map and information about the anemometer loan program.

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol

Nevada's Division of Forestry runs a biomass program.

Solar Energy

Solar Power Authority recaps the latest in Nevada solar policy, including state legislation, rebates, recent solar projects and business news.

Solar Power Rocks sums up the financial incentives available for solar power producers, and can hook you up with local solar installers.

Solar Generations, the popular renewable energy incentive program from Nevada Energy, allows customers to apply for solar power rebates and answers frequently asked questions about solar energy. A handy feature called Solar Up to the Minute shows you how much energy your system is producing at the moment, and has produced historically.

The Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society holds regular meetings.

Biogas Energy

The EPA's AgSTAR program has a comprehensive handbook on developing biogas technology. The site includes FarmWare, a free decision-making software package that can help you assess the feasibility of biogas on your farm.


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