Nevada State Energy Profile
RESOURCES AND CONSUMPTION
While Nevada is poor in fossil energy resources, it is rich in renewable energy potential. Nevada leads the nation in geothermal and solar power potential, and much of the state is suitable for wind power development. The Colorado River, which forms Nevada’s southern border, is a powerful hydroelectric power resource. Nevada’s population and total energy consumption are low, and the state’s economy is not energy intensive. Due in part to the Las Vegas tourism industry, the transportation sector is the leading energy-consuming sector in the state.
Nevada has one small crude oil refinery that produces primarily asphalt and diesel fuel. The state relies on California refineries for nearly all its transportation fuels, and three petroleum product pipelines transport supply from California refining centers to the Las Vegas and Reno fuel markets. A new 400-mile pipeline has been proposed to connect Salt Lake City refineries to southern Nevada consumers. The UNEV Pipeline is expected to be completed by the end of 2010 and would help accommodate the growing population of the Las Vegas region, one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Although total petroleum consumption is low, Nevada’s jet fuel consumption is disproportionately high due to demand from airports in Las Vegas and Reno and from two military air installations. The Las Vegas metropolitan area requires the year-round use of a cleaner burning gasoline (CBG) blend, which has low volatility and contains oxygenates, and both the Las Vegas and Reno metropolitan areas require the use of oxygenated motor gasoline during the winter months.
Natural gas in Nevada is used overwhelmingly for electricity generation, and over one-half of Nevada households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating. Interstate pipelines supply Nevada with natural gas from Utah and other neighboring Rocky Mountain states. The largest of these lines, the Kern River Gas Transmission pipeline from Wyoming, supplies the Las Vegas area as it passes through southern Nevada on the way to markets in southern California. Nevada ships almost 70 percent of the natural gas it receives to California.
COAL, ELECTRICITY, AND RENEWABLES
Natural gas-fired power plants supply over one-half of the electricity generated in Nevada, while coal-fired power plants supply nearly two-fifths. Hydroelectric and geothermal power plants supply most of the remainder; Nevada is one of the few states that generate electricity from geothermal resources. Nevada has also become a substantial producer of solar energy. Arizona and Utah are Nevada’s primary coal suppliers.
Until 2006, Nevada’s largest operating power plant was the Mohave Generating Station, which supplied power to southern California until it was shut down at the end of 2005 for failure to install pollution-control equipment. The coal supply for this plant was mixed with water and transported from mines in northwestern Arizona through a 275-mile pipeline—the only pipeline coal delivery system in the world. The state’s largest operating power plant is now the Chuck Lenzie Generating Station, a natural gas-fueled plant that utilizes North America’s largest air cooled condenser system and a water clarifier system that recycles about 75 percent of the used water. These technologies allow the Lenzie Station to use only 2.2 percent of the water required by a conventional coal plant per megawatt of electricity generated.
The state’s second largest operating power plant is the hydroelectric Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, which supplies markets in southern California, in addition to those in Nevada and Arizona. Built in less than 5 years during the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam stands today as a world-renowned structure and a National Historic Landmark.
Several high-voltage transmission lines currently connect Nevada to other western electricity grids, and Nevada hopes to increase electricity sales to California in the near future. In April 2005, four western state governors agreed to develop a 1,300-mile high-capacity power line from Wyoming to California that would allow as much as 12 thousand megawatts of electricity to flow from the energy-rich Rocky Mountain region to high-demand markets in California. A feasibility study was released in 2007 that supports the development of this transmission line project, and a second phase development study is currently underway. Nevada may use that line to deliver electricity produced from an expanding renewable power portfolio, which includes geothermal, wind, and solar power projects. Currently, several geothermal power-generating facilities operate in the northwestern part of Nevada. Although over one-third of Nevada households use electricity as their main energy source for home heating, the state's overall electricity demand is low.
In June 2009, Nevada established a new renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025, with at least 6 percent coming from solar energy sources by 2016.