Power Plant Combines Two Renewable Sources, First of its Kind

FALLON, NV - With appropriate comments of pride from assembled representatives, and, of course, the cutting of a green ribbon, Enel Green Power's new installation at Stillwater east of Fallon in Nevada was officially dedicated.

Outside, the power plant, said to be the first on the planet, was already quietly doing its job, generating enough power to supply at least 16 thousand homes and doing it zero emissions, by tapping into not one, but two renewable energy sources.

It is, everyone said, the only such hybrid on the planet.

The geothermal plant has been operating here for some time. What's new is this huge solar array. It turns out these two sources of renewable energy work in tandem and compliment each other.

Geothermal apparently is more efficient at night when temperatures are lower and, of course, solar stops working when the sun goes down. Put the two together and you've got a steady generation of power, 24-7.

"When geothermal is not performing at its peak, solar kicks in and it fills the gap," explains Enel's Francesco Venturini.

There's other advantages to this hybrid operation. While each source generates electricity separately, they use the same transmission line and are maintained by the same crew.

That kind of efficiency keeps costs down and that's important as renewable plants like this compete with more conventional sources.

Don't expect it to make a big impact on your monthly power bill, but in time it could be important.

Much of our energy here in northern Nevada is produced by burning natural gas or coal.

Those sources are relatively cheap at the moment, especially natural gas. That may not always be true, but the utility company can bank on the price of energy generated here.

"While it might look high relative to today's very low natural gas prices," says NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira, "in the long run this might be the best plant we have for price."

The Stillwater plant also helps NV Energy meet is legally mandated target of 15% of its power generated by renwables.

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