LAS VEGAS - Fifty years ago, the Reid Gardner Power Plant was the main source of electricity for the las vegas valley, but on Thursday, NV Energy officially took the coal-burning facility off the grid.
The power plant is located in Moapa about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The closure leaves just one coal-fired generating station in Nevada -- a plant that NV Energy co-owns at Valmy in northern Nevada. It's due to close by 2025.
"This is a bit of a bitter-sweet moment," said Starla Lacy, VP, Environmental Safety & Land Resources, NV Energy.
But in the blink of an eye, the Reid Gardner Coal Power Plant has been officially taken off the grid. Decommissioning of the plant began in 2014, but NV Energy disconnected the last 250-megawatt generator Thursday.
"This is nine months ahead of schedule," according to Lacy. "We were originally scheduled to come off the grid at the end of 2017."
Environmental advocates and members of a nearby Indian tribe are hailing the closure of an embattled coal-fired NV Energy power plant 40 miles north of Las Vegas. Nearly 250 residents live on the Moapa River Indian Reservation.
The power plant sits adjacent to the reservation's boundaries, and since the 1960's Reid Gardner has been burned coal and belched out soot which has caused tribal members to have concern for their health.
The I-Team outlined those concerns during a series of reports in 2012 when the plant was operating at full capacity.
"We are getting exposed to who knows what, Vernon Lee, who lives near power plant said. "All the ash stuff on the hill."
"In my era, we were all healthy people," said Aletha Tom, runs the Moapa Schoolhouse. "We didn't have the Asthma, thyroid problems, cancer, diabetes, but we have that on our reservation."
To clean up emissions, NV Energy installed scrubbers which are devices used to clean contaminants from emissions coming from the smoke stacks.
The company also invested in building solar plants statewide, including the 150-megawatt Boulder Solar Field near Boulder City. Boulder Solar Field opened last month.
"We have replaced this plant with seven times the capacity of this unit that you just saw retired, in solar."))
When it shuts down, only 6 percent of the utility's electricity will come from coal. That number will be cut in half by the end of the decade when the coal-powered Navajo-generating station in northern Arizona is decommissioned.
Sierra Club official Elspeth DiMarzio says Nevada is showing how to affordably rely on efficiency and renewable power, without coal.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes has long blamed the Reid Gardner plant for environmental and health concerns.
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