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Solar Power


PLASKON: The Stanford University Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory enhanced what it says is the sound of the sun here on earth.


PLASKON: The sun is so far away humans can't hear the enormous power it's generating . . . that is until the sunlight is collected.


PLASKON: On the roof of the 3-story Your Vitamins building in Henderson is the largest solar array in the state. A half-acre of the roof is covered with little black octagons that direct the power of the sun down to the second floor of the building where Matt Ryba, CEO for TWC construction is standing.

RYBA: We are standing inside the photovoltaic energy conversion room. The first section is the connections and conduits. These are converters to the left. . . ."

PLASKON: Fans are blowing off the heat of converting sunlight to 79 kilowats of power, and that's on a slow winter day.

SOUND: Gu Gu Chunk, Gu Gu Chunk

PLASKON: On the ground floor machines use the power to package 100 million dollars worth of products every year.

RYBA: So this is probably the end of the line for the process for the generating plant."

SOUND Machine filling pills

PLASKON: Ryba says the complicated machines fill tiny vitamin capsules.

RYBA: It always seems like magic to me, how they get the capsules in the right position to get the contents into them.

PLASKON: These vitamins, produced literally by the power of the sun, are ultimately consumed by people who want to feel good about all-natural consumption. Marketing the feel-good factor is one reason Andrew Lessman ordered the installation of the solar array.

RYBA: Mr. Lessman wanted to do a socially conscious thing.

PLASKON: Ryba says at first a project like this didn't pencil out - too expensive - a 1-point-8 million-dollar system to save only 60 thousand dollars a year in electricity costs. But a law passed by the 2003 Nevada Legislature AB431 gives anyone that produces solar electricity a Renewable Energy Credit or REC that's separate from the power produced. The law also requires Nevada Power to buy a lot of those credits to meet a goal of 15 percent solar energy production in the state by 2013. That's called a Renewable Portfolio Standard. Selling those RECs to Nevada Power is part of what makes the project pencil according to Ryba. Last week the Nevada Public Utilities Commission approved a contract for Your Vitamins to sell its credits to Nevada Power. The details aren't public.

WAGNER: It's almost like cloak and dagger.

PLASKON: Rebecca Wagner of the Public Utilities Commission says Nevada Power doesn't want people who are installing Photovoltaic or PV to know what their Renewable Energy Credits or "RECs" are worth combined.

WAGNER: All that is kept very confidential, I guess they are afraid that all these people who are putting PV on their houses might get together and drive the price up.

PLASKON: Individually a kilowatt credit in a market similar to Nevada where utilities are required to buy solar credits, one kilowatt is worth only 180 dollars a year. One household usually needs only 3 kilowatts a year. The more solar energy produced, the more credits. Your Vitamins negotiated a price for its 200 kilowatts of credits. It used a combination of the price of the installation and maintenance of the system to price the credits. Gary Wood, Renewable Program Specialist for Sierra Pacific, Nevada Power's parent company agrees that companies like Your Vitamins that have a lot of credits have more leverage to drive up the price of those credits.

WOOD: If there is a large amount from one source that will help determining value of those recs.

PLASKON: The company is acquiring a few energy credits at a time from homeowners and businesses by offering rebates for installing solar energy systems. It is ramping up investment too. The first offer was on August 1st.

BOEHM: Basically the whole thing was fully subscribed in two weeks.

PLASKON: UNLV Professor Bob Boehm is planning to use the rebate to install a system at a cost of 9-10 thousand dollars. He says if electricity prices go up, he'll be in fat city too, in other words not paying high electricity bills. The next rebate will be offered in two weeks.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

TAG: Links Next week Ky Plaskon reports on how school districts are becoming a major player in the state's solar energy market.

Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System

Nevada Power Solar Rebate Program



Environmental Media Services