Ely Energy Center, Phase I

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This project was the largest coal-fired power development in Nevada history. It was to include a new transmission line to connect Nevada Power Company with Sierra Pacific.[1]

On Sept. 7, 2007, a request by several environmental groups to delay the permit approval process was denied by the Nevada Environmental Commission.[2].

On Nov. 28, 2007, Nevada Power announced that, due to difficulties with regulatory review, it will be postponing the construction of the Ely Energy Center until after it finishes building a new natural-gas-fired power plant.[3] The air permit process continues to move forward, however; the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) released the draft operating permit in Oct. 2007 and is holding a public hearing on the proposed plant on Jan. 9, 2008 [4]. The NDEP has extended the public comment period until January 23, 2008.[5]

In January 2008, the Sierra Club, the National Park Service, and Zion National Park submitted comments on the draft air permit that detail numerous problems with the proposed plant. In February, Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Senator Harry Reid submitted a letter challenging the Nevada EPA's estimate of emissions for the Ely Energy Center, noting that Sierra Pacific's own estimates exceed top standards by more than 300%. Also in February, Sierra Pacific announced it will delay its Public Utilities Commission application until 2009 or 2010.

In April 2008, Innovest Strategic Value Advisers issued a report detailing the financial and environmental risks of the plant to shareholders and Nevada ratepayers. In July 2008, the final air permit was on hold due to U.S. EPA concerns about the plant's potential carbon dioxide emissions on sensitive corals in the Gulf of Mexico.

In September 2008, the Nevada PUC approved changes to NV Energy's (formerly Nevada Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co.) integrated resource plan to allow $130 million to be spent developing the Ely Energy Center. However NV Energy is also required to submit a feasibility report on building a 500- to 700-megawatt coal-fired plant at its Valmy Station in Northern Nevada instead. As of October 2008, the U.S. BLM and the state Division of Environmental Protection have not issued the final permits necessary to begin construction.[6]

According to the Sierra Club, on November 24, 2008, the Club sent a letter to the Nevada DEP, asking the agency to re-initiate the air permitting process for the Ely Energy Center. The Club requested that restrictions restrictions on the plant's carbon dioxide emissions be considered on the basis of a recent regulatory ruling on the air permit for the proposed Bonanza coal plant in Utah. US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also sent a letter to Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons asking Gibbons to reconsider his support for the Ely plant and two others proposed for the state in light of the Bonanza ruling. The US Bureau of Land Management is still working on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed plant. [7]

On February 9, 2009, Nevada Power announced that it was postponing the plant indefinitely because of increasing economic and environmental uncertainties. According to CEO Michael Yackira, the plant could be delayed for up to 10 years, or until carbon capture and storage technologies are available.[8]

Project Details

Sponsors: Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power
Location: Ely, NV
Capacity: 1500 MW (two units)
Type: Pulverized coal
Status: Postponed


Citizen Groups



  1. Proposed Ely Energy Center, Sierra Pacific corporate fact sheet, accessed January 2008.
  2. “Nevada Denies Plea to Delay New Coal Power Plants", Reuters, September 10, 2007.
  3. "Power Needs: Utility to Delay Coal-Fired Plant", Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 29, 2007.
  4. Public Notice , NDEP, accessed January 2008 (Pdf)
  5. Notice of Extension of Comment Period, NDEP, accessed January 2008. (Pdf)
  6. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed October 2008.
  7. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2009.
  8. "NV Energy postponing big coal-fired plant near Ely," Associated Press, February 10, 2009.

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