Developers have abandoned their plans for a coal-fired power plant slated for southeastern Nevada, choosing instead to use the site for plants fueled by natural gas and solar power.
Blackstone Group LP and its subsidiary Sithe Global announced yesterday that they had dropped plans for the 750-megawatt coal-fired Toquop Energy Project near Mesquite. Instead, developers will use the Toquop site to build a 700-megawatt natural gas plant with a 50- to 100-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant, Blackstone spokesman Peter Rose said.
The environmental impact of the planned coal-fired project was "probably the single most important factor" in the decision to make the switch, Rose added. He estimated that the natural gas and solar facilities would emit 60 percent less carbon dioxide and consume 60 percent less water than the coal-fired facility would have.
The Toquop plant was originally permitted as a natural gas-fired plant, but developers in 2007 decided that coal was a safer economic bet amid unsteady gas prices.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday praised the developers' decision to veer away from coal-fired power.
"Clean natural gas projects like this will help us use this clean energy source to strengthen our economy while protecting Nevada's great outdoors," Reid said in a statement. The Nevada senator participated in a conference call with Blackstone President and Chief Operating Officer Tony James to announce the decision.
Construction of the plant will cost $1.4 billion and create as many as 1,000 jobs for Nevadans, according to Reid's office.
Environmental groups that have long opposed construction of the Toquop coal plant also welcomed the announcement.
"With its vast wind, solar and geothermal resources and potential for meeting demand with energy efficiency programs, the decision to move away from coal really does bode well for Nevada," said Charles Benjamin, the state director of Western Resource Advocates, in a statement.
Toquop's departure from coal-fired power comes after developers last year stalled construction on two other major Nevada coal plants.
Last March, White Pine Energy Associates told Nevada state regulators it was withdrawing its application to build the planned 1,600-megawatt coal-fired White Pine Energy Station due to economic conditions and regulatory uncertainty (Greenwire, March 6, 2009). Less than a month before that, NV Energy shelved plans for a 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Ely, Nev., until technologies for capturing and storing greenhouse gas emissions became commercially feasible (E&ENews PM, Feb. 9, 2009).