Sin City just became ‘holier than thou’. The gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas, is now completely powered by renewable energy. Or is it? It seems that Las Vegas’ plans to move toward 100% renewable energy has produced some misinformation.
Popular Mechanics, a well known engineering news magazine, posted a fake story about Vegas back in December 2016. The story professed that Las Vegas was “the largest city in the country to run entirely on renewable energy.”
The city does indeed have a large-scale solar facility, but only the city’s government buildings are being powered by the sun. The facility in question is the Boulder Solar 1, a facility that opened its doors in December 2016. And it is impressive; it will reportedly save the city of Las Vegas USD $5 million.
NV Energy, the company in charge of Vegas’ large-scale renewable projects just brought Boulder Solar II online as well. It will produce 550 MW of solar energy for Las Vegas. These two projects are not alone, they joins 43 other renewable energy projects that are currently operating in Nevada.
Title: Popular Mechanics publishes Fake News
Credit: Popular Mechanics Twitter
A common misconception is also at play. The vibrant-looking hotels and casinos, pictured in a host of movies, are not in the city of Las Vegas; they are in two unincorporated towns named Paradise and Winchester, Nevada. They are governed by Clark County.
In other words, none of these hotels or casinos are being powered by renewable energy; they remain dependent on fossil fuels to a large degree. Popular Mechanics, and other news channels that ran the story, had to re-word their articles.
Not even close
Writing for Forbes, Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer wrote:
“With natural gas generating four times the electricity of renewables for the state, it isn’t mathematically possible for Las Vegas to be running entirely on renewables. Per EIA data Las Vegas runs primarily on natural gas. This is a major accomplishment for the Las Vegas city government, but it is important to note that its energy consumption is a tiny fraction of the overall city.”
However, perhaps the hopeful, inaccurate headlines present an interesting topic of conversation for the future. With casinos running 24/7 in ‘Vegas’, perhaps it is time to actively pursue renewables for the commercial sector - especially for those cities that ‘never sleep’.
Engineering companies and the commercial industry are continually being encouraged to make use of renewable energy technologies in their manufacturing and industrial operations.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) published a report in 2012 named: Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey. In their summary, they concluded that the energy used in commercial buildings was produced by: electricity (61%), natural gas (32%), district heat (5%) and fuel oil (2%).
However, companies have begun to take matters into their own hands. Electronics engineering company, Apple, have joined an initiative named RE100. The initiative encourages companies to move all of their operations toward renewable energy. Be it the powering of their stores, or the manufacturing of their items.
Apple, by 2015, had been operating 93% of their global operations with renewable energy. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said:
“Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort. We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we’ve been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain, and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”
Other companies which have joined the initiative include: IKEA, Adobe, Autodesk, BMW Group, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Facebook, General Motors, Google, and more.
Adding global pressure
Greenpeace South Africa have also realized how useful renewable power could be in a country where the power utilities are sometimes overwhelmed.
They recently released a report named: Shopping Clean: Retailers and Renewable Energy. The group wrote:
“If Woolworths, for example, were to be 100% renewable energy powered, this would liberate enough electricity for 55,000 households in South Africa. Pick n’ Pay’s electricity consumption is enough to power 65,000 households while Massmart and Spar could power 53,000 and 5,400 households respectively.”
Whilst the hope is that companies will migrate their operations over to renewable energy, as the confusion around Las Vegas shows, it is not as easy as just writing it into existence. Engineers need to be consulted and plans put together to ensure that efficient technologies are available for malls, hotels and casinos, the business sector at large, and manufacturing industries.
Perhaps one day you’ll be pulling the lever on a slot machine powered by a wind turbine. A fact that may be a consolation for the money you may be losing!
"Apple Joins RE100, Announces Supplier Clean Energy Pledges." Apple Newsroom. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Rapier, Robert. "Sorry, Las Vegas Isn't Close To Running Entirely On Renewable Energy." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 29 Dec. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Account, Popular MechanicsVerified. "Popular Mechanics (@PopMech)." Twitter. Twitter, 20 Feb. 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.