Southern Nevada Water Authority Uses Solar to Conserve Water


The Southern Nevada Water Authority announces a power purchase agreement with SunEdison. The 20-year agreement locks in the cost of electricity for the utility, while the 14 MW plant provides power with zero water use.

Solar in Nevada has been expanding rapidly thanks to the winning combination of sunny weather, large open spaces, and solar-friendly policies. Large ground-mounted systems that take advantage of these open spaces are becoming more and more common in the state.

Now the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is looking to take advantage of this by entering a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunEdison Inc. (NYSE: SUNE). The PPA enables SNWA to lock in a significant portion of its energy costs at a fixed rate, providing an effective hedge against future increases. As part of the agreement, SunEdison will develop, construct, own, and operate a 14 MW solar plant, located in Clark County, Nevada.

“This partnership with SunEdison expands our renewable energy portfolio to about 18% of our total power mix, and it provides additional stability to power costs, which ultimately benefits Southern Nevada’s municipal water users,” said John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager. “When compared with traditional power production from fossil fuels, this solar facility will also save more than 100 million gallons of water and contribute to the sustainability of our community.”

It makes perfect sense that a water utility located in a desert state would look for methods of water conservation. Water is used in a number of ways in fossil-fuel-based electricity production, including generating steam to turn turbines, helping to keep power plants cool, and flushing away the fuel residue after fossil fuels are burned. By contrast, solar PV plants do not use any water in the production of electricity.

SunEdison has taken advantage of the popularity of PPAs and has been entering into them throughout the country. “This project is a great example of how SunEdison can provide cost effective solar solutions to fit almost any location,” said Bob Powell, President, North America at SunEdison. “This ground-mounted facility will be built around a transmission and pipeline infrastructure that is quite complex – if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”

Construction of the facility will begin in early 2015 with commercial operation slated for later that year.