Plans aimed at restarting the Mohave Generating Station plant in southwest Nevada (pictured above), which went into service in 1971 and closed in December 2005, were all but laid to rest in February with a Salt River Project (SRP) decision to end activities aimed at restarting the 1,580 MW plant. SRP, a 20 percent owner, was the last Mohave owner to drop efforts to reopen the coal-fired plant.
SRP could not negotiate the purchase of Southern California Edison’s (SCE) 56 percent share of the plant because SCE could not guarantee it would receive approval of a sale from the California Public Utilities Commission in time to restart the plant in 2011. California regulators would likely seek assurances that buyers could never use the site as a coal plant. (In February, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to ban the state’s three largest regulated utilities from buying electricity from most coal-burning plants. The new rules also prohibit those utilities from entering into long-term contracts with sources that emit more carbon dioxide than a modern natural gas plant.)
Without assurances of regulatory approval in time to restart the plant by 2011-even with the promised investment of three quarters of a billion dollars in new pollution control equipment-SRP threw in the towel.
The plant closed in late 2005 pursuant to a consent decree resulting from lawsuits brought by environmental organizations. In June 2006, SCE and two other co-owners – Nevada Power Co. and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – announced they would no longer pursue a plant restart. But last year, SRP formed a new ownership group to try to extend Mohave’s life.
The group said it would invest about $750 million in additional pollution-control systems to reduce plant emissions. The additions would have lowered emissions to less than what was required by the consent decree. The group also agreed to develop a new water supply system for the Black Mesa Coal Mine on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations in northeastern Arizona, which supplied coal to the plant. The group also committed to providing new infrastructure to make groundwater from the new system available to the Hopi and Navajo communities that are currently without fresh water delivery facilities.
John Coggins, SRP’s manager of resource planning and development, said the decision to end restart activities came down to an issue of timing. He said SRP will wait to see what SCE decides to do before deciding how to dispose of its 20 percent share of Mohave. SCE has said it will continue exploring “all reasonable options” including a possible sale or outright decommissioning of the plant.
Mohave produced enough power to supply about one million homes. SRP, the third largest public utility in the United States, is considering several options for finding power to replace its 300 MW share lost from the closing. Options include buying electricity on the wholesale market or building new capacity; it is also studying coal gasification
Rod Smith, Southwest representative of the Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups that filed lawsuits leading to the shutdown, said SRP’s decision clears the way for more wind and solar power.