When most people think of Nevada, images of Vegas’ glitz and glamour come to mind with all those bright lights and flashy casinos. Lots of fossil fuels go into powering Sin City, which is where much of the state’s population lives, but Nevada has been making big strides to reduce its carbon footprint
The Nevada Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 358 after it also passed unanimously in the state Assembly to go 50% renewable by 2030 and aim for 100% by 2050. With solar, geothermal, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric energy taking the place of fossil fuels, it’s now Nevada’s turn to devise a sustainable plan for local communities.
Fortunately, Nevada legislators have the backing of NV Energy, which is looking to add more than 1 GW of solar and 100 MW of battery storage to its generation capacity. Yet some of the largest companies in the state, MGM and Caesar’s Palace, have left this utility company, which means that other energy providers need to get onboard with the renewables plan too.
Natural gas is still the driving source of power here and the last coal plant in Nevada can produce electric power until 2025. Yet there are huge opportunities for solar energy in Nevada, a state where solar generation makes up over half of the state’s renewable generation. The good news is that solar power in Nevada is becoming dramatically cheaper than it used to be and also cheaper than traditional sources of energy. Some people believe that the states of Nevada and Arizona combined could produce enough solar energy to power the entire U.S.
However, Las Vegas still has a long way to go to offset its footprint and make its high levels of energy use more sustainable. A few years ago, some misleading headlines came out that Las Vegas had gone 100% renewable, but the truth was that only the city government in Las Vegas had reached that milestone, while the rest of the city was still primarily running on natural gas.
But we are seeing solar panel installations increase on Vegas’ buildings, community centers, fire stations, and in parks. In fact, the solar capacity in Vegas quadrupled between 2013 and 2018.
Here’s a snapshot of the Nevada solar industry (data current through Q4 2018), courtesy of the Solar Energy Industry Association:
- Solar Installed (MW): 3,145.42
- National Ranking: 4th (5th in 2018)
- Enough Solar Installed to Power: 555,373 homes
- Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 12.72%
- Solar Jobs: 6,680
- Solar Companies in State: 137 (14 Manufacturers, 76 Installers/Developers, 47 Others)
- Total Solar Investment in State: $6.4 billion
- Prices have fallen 47% over the last 5 years
- Growth Projection and Ranking: 3,108 MW over the next 5 years (ranks 5th)
- Number of Installations: 35,954