By Mark Waite
TONOPAH — The county could possibly save more than $150,000 per year by applying for an allocation of power from Hoover Dam, Nye County Nuclear Waste Project Office Director Darrell Lacy told county commissioners Monday.
Five percent of the total generating capacity of Hoover Dam, about 103,700 kilowatts, will become available for distribution to new allotments in the Western Area Power Administration service area, including southern Nye County under the Hoover Power Allocation Act of 2011.
If approved, the county could save two to three cents per kilowatt hour, Lacy said.
Lacy’s proposal states Nye County may apply for an allocation of Hoover Dam power and approve a contract in 2014 or 2015 and begin receiving its allotment in October 2017, when current contracts expire. The county already receives power indirectly from the dam through Valley Electric Association, which receives about 18 percent of its portfolio from hydroelectric power.
The county would have to buy power in a minimum of one megawatt blocks, with a guaranteed power purchase. Nye County may have to join with other local government, like the Nye County School District, town of Pahrump, town of Beatty and town of Amargosa Valley, to meet eligibility requirements.
“This act was created in 2011 that frees up some of the power generation of Hoover Dam that essentially has been locked up in contracts since the 1930s. The potential is there for Nye County and/or related groups like Nye County School District to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $175,000 to $200,000 for one megawatt of usage. In reality, we actually use somewhere over two megawatts total,” Lacy told commissioners.
The average home uses 10,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity. A megawatt is 1 million watts.
Lacy thinks the Western Power Administration will have to modify the proposal however, as Nye County technically doesn’t qualify for the allotments, but no one else does either. The contracts are long term, for 50 years.
The Hoover Power Allocation Act, published in the Federal Register Oct. 30, 2012, allows applications by municipal corporations and political subdivisions including irrigation or other districts, municipalities and other governmental organizations that have electric utility status by April 1, 2014. Electric utility status means the entity has responsibility to meet load growth, has a distribution system and is ready, willing and able to purchase federal power from the Western Area Power Administration on a wholesale basis.
But the list of eligible applicants in the bill states the WAPA will consider “other eligible applicants.”
“This is a fairly long process at this stage and we just need to know if we have authority to attend meetings and meet with other agencies. This is a fairly complicated situation. We need to have Valley Electric’s support of this and we notified them we’re doing this,” Lacy said.
Nye County already attended scoping meetings attended by officials from Clark County, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and others. Lacy thinks the allocation could be a way to get cheaper power to Indian tribes.
The savings could be even greater if the cost of power goes up, Lacy said.
Nye County would have to pay $21,900 per year for the first five years and about $7,162 per year after that, in costs for the allocation for things like the contribution to the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, repayable advances charged for capital expenditures and administration charges, assuming a one megawatt load.