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Green Lights – The City of Las Vegas to go 100-percent Renewable by 2017
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This article is republished from the August 2016 issue of Strategies, AESP’s exclusive magazine for members. To receive Strategies, please consider joining AESP.

Green Lights – The City of Las Vegas to go 100-percent Renewable by 2017

By Adeline Lui

 

Image: Loïc Lagarde, www.flickr.com/photos/loic80l/with/23754143564

At AESP’s Summer Conference on EE Technology in Chicago on August 16, one of the most anticipated presentations will be from the City of Las Vegas’ director of planning and chief sustainability officer, Tom Perrigo. The city announced an ambitious plan to be 100 percent renewable-powered by next year, making it a first for a city of this size and prominence. We caught up with Tom to tell us a bit about the greening of Las Vegas.

AESP: Las Vegas would be the first city of its size to be 100-percent powered by renewable energy by 2017. That’s a monumental achievement, and Las Vegas should deservedly take pride in leading the way for other cities to do the same. What other aspects of this initiative make you excited?

TOM PERRIGO: Achieving a 100-percent renewable target meets the City’s environmental and economic objectives, including reduced emissions, consumption, and overall costs. However, through this announcement, the City also has an opportunity to change people’s perceptions because they often associate Las Vegas with iconic gaming and entertainment, not sustainability. Despite fountains and water features at many hotel properties, resorts actually use less than 8 percent of the region’s water. The region’s purveyor, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) of which the City is a member, has saved more than 40 billion gallons of water over the last decade while adding approximately 500,000 in population.

Millions of square feet of LEED-certified green buildings were constructed in Southern Nevada over the past decade, much of which includes the gaming, resort, and convention industry. Green features have been incorporated at many of the City’s resorts, including incorporation of efficient lighting, green housekeeping, recycling and composting of food waste, renewable energy, and water-saving technologies into resort operations. Earlier this month, MGM Resorts completed the largest rooftop solar array in the country, an eight megawatt array atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. While done subtly, the impact of green operations is one component that has helped Las Vegas become more sustainability minded. By bringing in 100 percent of its power needs from renewable sources, the City can reinforce to residents and visitors that, not only is the local government a leader in sustainability, but so are our resorts and our community.

 

AESP:  We hear that all municipal properties will be involved, just how vast is that?

TOM PERRIGO: All City of Las Vegas buildings and facilities (City Hall, fire stations, community centers), parks, streetlights, and wastewater treatment plants, spread across the city’s 136 square mile territory are covered under the Renewable Energy Agreement. This represents a load of approximately 28 megawatts across all facilities.

 

AESP: How will the city achieve the 100-percent renewable target?

TOM PERRIGO: The City currently has 6.1 megawatts of renewable energy consisting of a 3-megawatt solar plant and net-metered solar-covered parking at 40 different buildings, facilities, fire stations, parks, community centers, and at its wastewater treatment plant. In addition, the City will be receiving an allocation of 2 megawatts of hydropower from Hoover Dam in 2017 for use at its facilities. The remainder will be covered by the Renewable Energy Agreement.

 

AESP: Tell us about the genesis of this project… where, how and when did this initiative come about?

TOM PERRIGO: The City has been implementing one of the most ambitious sustainability initiatives in the country for more than a decade. It began with a foundational policy in 2006 with the adoption of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, and then, the Sustainable Energy Strategy in 2008 that established short and long term renewable energy and emissions targets. The City then invested approximately $70 million in renewable energy, energy and water efficiency, recycling, and alternative transportation at city parks, buildings, and facilities.  As a result, the City was the recipient of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Award for its achievements in sustainability in 2014, and became a certified 4-STAR Community rated for national excellence in sustainability in 2015. These were successful first steps; then members of the City Council and City Manager Betsy Fretwell pushed even higher – to become the nation’s first large net-zero municipality.  Due to the earlier investments and Nevada’s supportive renewable energy policies, the City partnered with the utility to make that vision a reality.

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