Prison power plant fires up next month |

Prison power plant fires up next month

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Frank Smith, with APS Energy Services of Phoenix, welds on the steam turbine at the biomass plant at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center on Wednesday afternoon. The wood-fired power plant is due to go online in early July.

The wood-fired power plant that will eliminate nearly all of Northern Nevada Correctional Center’s utility bills should go on line in July.

NNCC Facilities Manager Dave Long said the plant, which will provide both heat and electric power to the prison, is 95 percent complete. He said testing of its components will begin next week.

“We expect to start firing the boiler and begin some on-line testing the second week in July and expect it to be on-line by the end of the month,” Long said.

The plant, built by APS Energy Services of Phoenix, is costing the state $12.5 million. It uses forest waste – mostly chopped up underbrush and limbs gathered from the hills west of Carson City – to fire two 900-horsepower boilers. It will provide heating, including hot water, as well as electric power for both the correctional center and the Stewart Conservation Camp.

“For 1,500 guys, you need a lot of hot water,” Long said.

Once it’s up and running, operators will shut down four 150-horsepower gas-fired boilers that now provide heat to the prison, “as well as zeroing out my $40,000 a month power bill,” Long said.

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In addition, excess electricity generated by the plant during low-demand hours will be sold to Sierra Pacific Power Co.

“That’s what made the project so affordable to us,” he said.

The biomass will be provided through a contract with Carson City Renewables.

Long said prison officials are considering using forestry camp crews to collect and prepare the wood chips while simultaneously reducing the danger of wildfires in the future.

The prison will pay Carson Renewables $1.78 per million BTUs of thermal energy in the form of wood chips. That is far less than the $11.90 per million BTUs the prison now pays for natural gas.

When construction began in September, Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said he hoped the center’s plant was just the first of several biomass plants in the area. He said there is a huge amount of burnable fuel in the mountains west of Carson City and biomass plants could provide power and heat to not only prisons but the Capitol Complex, school district and Carson City government buildings.

At the same time, Jay Johnson of APS said the center’s plant would be the first they have built producing both heat and power.

In addition to the biomass plant, the project includes 30 kilowatts of solar electric power on the prison roof.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.