LAS VEGAS (AP) — NV Energy announced this week that it wants to build another solar farm and shut down a coal-fired power plant in southern Nevada earlier than planned — moves that environmental advocates say will help consumers and a tribe that lives near the coal plant.
The utility company requested approval from the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to shut down the final unit of the Reid Gardner Generating Station on Feb. 28, 2017, 10 months earlier than the original date of Dec. 31, 2017. Three other units were shut down in late 2014 at the request of state lawmakers.
"This is good news for Nevada's economy and its health," said Andy Maggi, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League Education Fund. "It's a win for the Moapa Band of Paiutes, the community next door to the plant, where children and adults have suffered from exposure to the pollution coming from the coal plant."
Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, who's been a vocal critic of coal, praised the decision.
"I wish they'd done it a lot earlier, but I'm glad they're doing it," he told reporters outside an unrelated event in Las Vegas on Tuesday. "The new management of NV Energy has tried, and I appreciate what they've done, but there's a lot more to do."
NV Energy also announced that it's seeking approval to build a 100-megawatt solar farm in Boulder City. The project is in its development phase and is expected to start running at the end of 2018, pending regulators' approval.
The company said it signed a 25-year agreement with Techren Solar LLC and will be getting the electricity for an average cost of 4 cents per kilowatt hour.
"This is one of the lowest-cost solar projects in the country," said Kevin Geraghty, senior vice president of energy supply for NV Energy.
The utility company wants regulators to decide on the two requests by the end of 2016.
NV Energy has faced major pressure to shift toward renewable energy from rooftop solar advocates and large casino companies that are leaving the monopoly to pursue cleaner options.
The company said it's neutral on a ballot measure called the Energy Choice Initiative that would make it easier for customers to leave NV Energy, but released a two-page document this week outlining concerns about how such deregulation would work.