Data storage could double energy use in 8 years, NV Energy CEO says

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Pushed by the burgeoning growth of the data-storage industry, Northern Nevada's energy usage could double within a decade, NV Energy President and CEO Doug Cannon said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.

"Right now in Northern Nevada, our total load is about 2,000 megawatts on any given day," Cannon told host Sam Shad. "We have contracts signed with data centers wanting to come to our state that would increase that to 4,000 megawatts.

"Wow," Cannon continued. "It took us 125 years to get to 2,000 megawatts. We're going to grow to 4,000, and they want to do it in about eight years. So it's a tremendous amount of investment and a tremendous amount of growth.

"And so right now we're very focused on working with our regulators to ensure that we can build the infrastructure," Cannon said.

Data centers are already booming in the Reno/Sparks/Fernley area as Switch, Apple, eBay, and Google all have a data-center presence here.

Northern Nevada's dry climate, available land and secure desert locations have helped grow the industry, experts have said. But corporations are also drawn to the area for other reasons, Cannon said.

"We have good location adjacent to California, but we don't have the taxes (that California has)," Cannon said. "We have much, much cheaper power. If we look at our neighbors over in California, they could be paying anywhere from 30 to 40 cents for a unit of energy, where our customers are paying 10 cents for that same unit of energy. So our customers have much lower energy costs.

"So when you start to put our favorable business environment, favorable tax environment and favorable electric environment together, that makes a really great combination for attracting this big data-center load," Cannon said.

Proximity to fiber routes along the Interstate 80 corridor is also a major factor, Tract CEO Grant van Rooyen told the Nevada Appeal last year. Tract, which offers shovel-ready development sites for data centers, is already a major player in the Northern Nevada data-storage community.

"Interstate 80 is important because that’s where all the long-haul fiber is in this area," van Rooyen told the Appeal. "Data centers that can’t be connected to at-scale material connectivity starting at the fiber level are not particularly useful, so Northern Nevada is very well located in respect to fiber.

“It’s also 3 milliseconds away from the Bay Area for data transmission," van Rooyen added.

Experts add that data-storage centers provide good-paying jobs. An internet search for data-center technician employment found listings for jobs ranging from $60,000 to $90,000 annually. State leaders have expressed a strong interest in bringing those jobs to Nevada.

"This (data-storage industry) is an incredible opportunity for Nevada," Cannon said. "There's a lot of other states in the West that are saying, 'We can't take this size of electric loads.' And yet the message we're getting from Nevada is we want to be open for business. And so if Nevada wants to be open for this type of business, we want to support that."

As energy demands increase, NV Energy is transitioning away from fossil fuels to natural gas and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and battery power, Cannon said.

"So we're building the Sierra Solar project," Cannon said. "That's a 400 megawatt solar project. And it will also have a 400 megawatt battery with it," Cannon said.

"We have other sites in Northern Nevada that we could develop," Cannon said. "We're also building our Greenlink transmission line. That will open up the ability to develop some property that we have in the Amargosa Valley (88 miles northwest of Las Vegas) – very good solar potential on that property. We acquired that from the Bureau of Land Management. And so with Greenlink in place and other properties that we have, will be developing a lot of renewables.

The Greenlink Nevada project, estimated by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to cost $2.9 billion, is expected to include the construction of 585 miles of transmission lines in Nevada and be ready by December 2028, according to NV Energy.

The energy plan for the future includes retiring NV Energy's last coal-fired plant, the North Valmy Generating Station, and converting it to natural gas.

"We are re-powering our Valmy power plant," Cannon said. "That was a coal-fired power plant. The last one. We're going to convert that to natural gas. It will reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent."

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