On Wednesday I had to opportunity to tour the hydroelectric plant owned by Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) in Verdi, Nevada. This plant, and three others, were built to supply the growing demand of Virginia City mining and the expanding population in the Reno area throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Verdi plant was fully operation by 1912. So for over 100 years this small building has been pulling water from the Truckee River, churning it for energy, only keeping a fragment of the amount of water collected, and pushing it back out into the river. Very few fish are collected but with the help of the Army Corp of Engineers, a new screen is being developed.
TMWA purchased the plant from Sierra Pacific Power Company, after they sold the water division of their business, so they could retain their water rights on the river. Since then, TMWA has sold the electricity back to NV Energy at 7 cents kilowatt. When the Lake Tahoe basin falls below the natural rim the Verdi plant has to stop generating power. The plant also synchronizes its load amount in the Fall to accommodate for decreased water available from nearby reservoirs. When fully operational Verdi generates about 2.3 mega watts, equivalent to powering just under 2,000 homes. This is significant because the plant requires little maintenance, has no thermal loading or gas components and still uses original parts to generate energy. Small changes and updates in the controls have helped efficiency, but overall the 100 year old technology used to create clean energy has not changed.
I appreciate TMWA’s transparency not only with the tour and the Verdi plant, but as a group playing a part in energy efficiency and helping solve our global issues. Our tour group was about 20 strong and from all demographics and age groups, because energy does not effect a specific type of individual, it matters to us all.
Pat Nielson and Cameron were great tour guides. Pat was kind enough to give me a handout explaining the history and operation of the plant. So if you have any other questions about the capabilities that I didn’t share above please comment below. I hope this brief overview will help people look into and explore green energy alternatives.
If you’re interested in seeing the plant for yourself, get a group together and contact TMWA.