Nevada Nuclear Test Site to Host Huge Wind Farm

WASHINGTON, DC, January 18, 2001 (ENS) - Part of a former nuclear weapons testing site in Nevada is being transformed into the nation's second largest wind power facility.

In his last week as Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson signed an agreement with U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada to build the enormous wind power facility on 664 acres of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The agreement, paves the way for transforming the test site into a renewable energy facility that will help stabilize volatile utility supplies for both consumers and the government, particularly in California and Nevada.

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Energy Secretary Bill Richardson (Photo courtesy DOE)
"This clean, renewable energy project will result in the second largest wind power farm in the United States," said Secretary Richardson. "The wind farm will be generating energy by the end of the year and will help increase energy supplies in California and other areas suffering from energy shortages. It also will benefit taxpayers by helping cut the Department of Energy's energy costs."

The agreement, signed Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol by Reid and Richardson, links the MNS Wind Company and the Nevada Test Site Development Corporation (NTSDC) in a partnership created to produce energy from the wind at the Nevada Test Site.

MNS Wind Company is a partnership being negotiated between M&N Wind Power of La Jolla, California and Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia.

"The time is right to embrace new forms of clean energy and Nevada is the right location to build a pollution free wind farm that will serve as a source for that much needed power," said Senator Reid.

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Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat, was instrumental in getting the wind farm for the Nevada Test Site. (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
"We should all learn from California's experience with electricity deregulation and begin work now to make these changes, before deregulation takes place. As demand for power continues to increase in California, Nevada and elsewhere, additional sources of electricity must be developed. This wind farm will aid in increasing those available power supplies, without endangering the health of the surrounding environment," Reid said.

Reid played a key role in obtaining the easement on the property for the NTSDC, a nonprofit corporation that works with the Department of Energy to promote the growth of science and technology in Nevada.

Larger than the state of Rhode Island, the Nevada Test Site covers 1,350-square-miles. Prior to the signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty on August 5, 1963, which banned atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, the Department's predecessor agencies conducted more than 1,100 above ground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site.

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Underground nuclear tests leave subsidence craters like these at the Nevada Test Site. 828 underground nuclear tests, including 24 with the UK, were conducted at the site between 1951 and 1992. (Photo courtesy The Brookings Institution)
The Nevada Test Site ceased underground nuclear weapons testing in 1992. Since then, the Energy Department has performed subcritical experiments and disposes of low level radioactive waste from the site and from other Department of Energy installations. In addition, the site stores mixed transuranic waste, conducts spill testing, emergency response training, conventional weapons testing, and waste management and environmental technology studies.

The test site has also partnered with the Nevada Test Site Development Corporation to produce energy from renewable sources.

"There are many locations across the country where use of wind and solar power makes sense. The Nevada Test Site is just one of them," said General John Gordon, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). "As the owner-operator of the test site, we are glad to be able to cooperate in this project that is fully consistent with long term NNSA missions."

The NTS wind turbine project furthers Secretary Richardson's commitment to have the energy department begin purchasing three percent of its electricity from green power facilities: sun, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy located throughout the United States.

With the Nevada Test Site wind farm project in place, the department will meet its 2005 renewable energy goal of three percent two years early. The department has also committed to purchasing 7.5 percent of its electricity from non-hydro renewable energy sources by 2010.

The first phase of the three phase project calls for at least 120 wind turbines to be operational by the end of 2001 and supply 85 megawatts of electricity. It is enough power to supply 85,000 people from some of the nation's fastest growing communities, including Nevada and California. The other two phases of the project will be developed 18 months after the first phase is completed.

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Windfarms like this one in Palm Springs, California, are increasingly providing power to the electric grid. (Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
Following those two installations, the wind farm will have 325 wind turbines producing 260 megawatts of electricity or enough to supply power for 260,000 people. The project also will create jobs for 150 to 200 construction workers and about 30 maintenance and operating jobs.

The wind farm will contribute to the ability of the department's Nevada Operations Office to support the national security mission of the NTS. Prorated over the three phases of the project, the wind farm operators will provide DOE's Nevada Operations Office with free energy equivalent to ten percent of its NTS electrical consumption last year.

Potential construction, operation, and maintenance work from the wind farm may also reduce infrastructure and site service costs to DOE programs and other users of the NTS. The Energy Department's green power purchase will stimulate the development of approximately 50 new megawatts of renewable energy sources in the United States.

This purchase also will help encourage the development of renewable power generation by small and disadvantaged businesses, including some owned by Native Americans.