Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Toquop Energy Project?
The Toquop Energy Project includes construction and operation of a 750-megawatt, coal-fired power plant and associated facilities. It would include a 31-mile rail spur that would link the new plant to an existing rail line and would be used to transport coal to the plant. The Toquop Energy Project would be located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in southeastern Lincoln County, Nevada.
This project would be located on the same site where a 1,100-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant was permitted by the BLM through an environmental impact statement (EIS) that was completed in 2003. Some of the components are the same as the previously permitted plant, including the transmission interconnection, access road, and water supply infrastructure. Besides the change in fuel source, the primary differences between the previously permitted plant and the current proposed Toquop Energy Project are (1) changes to the site plan and a decrease in the capacity of the plant, (2) the addition of the rail spur to transport the coal, and (3) changes in emissions from the plant.
2. Why is new power generation needed?
The purpose of the new power plant is to generate electric power at a competitive price for use by consumers and to serve the growth in demand for power in the region. Rapid population growth in southern Nevada and the Las Vegas and Phoenix areas have increased the demand for power. In addition some generating plants in the Southwest, including the 1,500 megawatt Mohave Plant in southern Nevada, are facing retirements that would further drive the need for additional generation.
3. Where would this power be used – what markets would be served?
The markets that would be served by this power plant would include southern Nevada (including the Las Vegas metropolitan area) and Arizona.
4. Are there any other new generation plants proposed in the Southwest that might compete for the same market?
Yes, there are several power plants being proposed in the Southwest, although it is possible that they will not all be built. The Southwest needs as much as 1,000 megawatts of new generation each year and many of the proposed plants would not be completed for 5 to 7 years.
5. Who is Sithe Global Power, LLC? What experience do they have?
Sithe Global Power, LLC (Sithe Global) is proposing the Toquop Energy Project. Sithe is an international development company with significant experience in the development, construction, acquisition, and operation of electric generation facilities in attractive markets around the world. Sithe Global’s management team has extensive industry experience. Headquartered in New York, Sithe is developing projects in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
6. Why was this site identified for the plant?
All of the features that made the site suitable for the previously permitted gas-fired power plant also would apply for a coal–fired power plant. Access to high voltage transmission lines, water, and a natural-gas pipeline (for use during plant start-up) also are required elements for a coal-fired power plant and are available on this site. In addition, this site is located outside of desert tortoise critical habitat. Some alternative sites that were explored for the plant could have a shorter rail spur, but these sites would require building new transmission, access roads, and additional water pipelines.
7. Why propose a coal-fired plant when a natural gas-fired plant has already been permitted for this location?
Since 2003, when the natural gas-fired power plant was permitted, the price of natural gas has increased substantially. It is estimated that natural gas prices will remain volatile due to higher demand and greater exploration and development costs. The unpredictability associated with natural gas reduces the probability that the gas-fired plant would generate reliable and competitively priced power. Due to the use of new technology for coal-fired power generation and the availability of reliable coal supplies, Sithe Global determined that a coal-fired plant could more efficiently produce power to meet regional demands while still mitigating environmental concerns.
8. When is the Toquop Energy Project scheduled to begin construction? When it is scheduled to go online?
Construction is anticipated to begin in 2008, and the plant would come online in 2012.
9. What studies are being conducted to determine if this project will have environmental impacts?
The BLM, as the current land manager for the site, determined that an EIS would be prepared to evaluate the differences between the previously permitted project and the current proposed Toquop Energy Project. An EIS is being prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and associated regulations. The BLM Ely Field Office is the lead agency for this effort. Through the process of developing the EIS, potential impacts of the plant will be evaluated and mitigation measures identified, as appropriate.
There also will be permitting requirements from other agencies. These include a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit in accordance with the Clean Air Act, and permits required under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. These permits establish control technology standards that ensure compliance with applicable environmental regulations.
10. How high would the stacks be? How many would there be? What measures would be taken to ensure the safety of wildlife and aircraft near the stacks?
The project will have one main stack associated with the 750 megawatt boiler and the subsequent flue gas treatment system. The stack height is anticipated to range between 450 feet and 800 feet depending on the final design of the plant. The exact height of the stacks will be determined from the exact location and dimensions of all surrounding buildings, and this general arrangement information is not available at this stage of the project.
There also will be secondary stacks—one associated with the auxiliary boiler (approximately 100 feet in height), another associated with an emergency generator (approximately 50 feet in height), and a third associated with a fire water pump (approximately 30 feet in height).
The EIS will evaluate the impacts of the stack on wildlife and identify how these impacts can be properly mitigated. Toquop Energy, Inc. also will be required to obtain clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that the stack does not interfere with aviation traffic in the area.
11. How would the plant affect local air quality? Would emissions meet air quality regulatory requirements? What is being done to protect air quality?
The operation of a coal-fired power plant typically results in emissions including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, sulfuric acid mist, mercury, and carbon dioxide. Through the use of advanced technology, the proposed Toquop Energy Project would be designed to control sulfur dioxide by approximately 98 percent, nitrogen oxides by 90 percent, particulate matter by 99.9 percent, sulfuric acid mist by 90 percent, and mercury by a minimum of 80 percent. The project also will utilize an efficient supercritical boiler capable of achieving 15 to 20 percent less carbon dioxide emissions when compared to a typical coal-fired power plant. The projected emission levels would be some of the lowest ever permitted in the United States for a coal-fired power plant. The EIS and the Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit (to be completed in accordance with the Clean Air Act) will evaluate potential air quality impacts, identify any necessary mitigation measures, and ensure that the project would comply with all applicable regulations including national and state ambient air quality standards.
12. How much water would be required to operate the proposed power plant, and what would the source of water be? Will the use of water for this plant affect the water supply in southeastern Nevada?
Because it will use dry-cooling technology, the proposed Toquop Energy Project would require 2,500 acre-feet of water per year. This is 65 percent less than the projected use for the previously permitted natural gas-fired power plant, and 80 percent less than a conventional water-cooled coal-fired plant.
Newly developed wells located in the Tule Desert approximately 12 miles north of the plant site would provide the water for the project. About 2,100 acre-feet have already been permitted by the Nevada State Engineer. The 2003 EIS concluded that pumping water from this aquifer would not result in a substantial decline in groundwater levels or a substantial depletion of groundwater resources (this document, the Proposed Toquop Land Disposal Amendment to the Caliente Management Framework Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Toquop Energy Project, is available on the project web site, www.toquopenergy.com). Although the effects of water use will be discussed in the EIS, it is anticipated that any effects would be reduced from that of the previously proposed plant, due to the substantial decrease in water requirements.
13. How much wastewater will be generated each year and how will it be disposed?
Efficient water use allows the plant to be designed as a zero discharge facility. No wastewater would have to be disposed.
14. How would the plant’s byproducts (like fly ash) be disposed?
The primary goal will be to find commercial markets for all byproducts produced. For example, fly ash may be used in building materials. In the event that there are no markets for any of the byproducts, they would be land-filled on the plant site. The landfill would be designed to comply with all applicable regulations, and would be analyzed in the EIS.
15. What will be the cost of this project?
The estimated cost of the project is $1.2 billion.
16. What will be this project’s effect on local electrical rates?
The plant’s cost to produce electricity would be lower than many existing natural gas units and would not be a subject to the drastic swings in natural gas prices, and this could result in lower electrical rates.
17. How much tax revenue would be provided by the proposed project and where will those taxes go?
Once it is operational, the plant would be the largest taxpayer in Lincoln County. The anticipated tax revenues are estimated to exceed $10 million dollars per year at current tax rates.
18. How many local jobs will be created during construction and operation of the plant?
It is estimated that the project would provide an average of 800 jobs during the four-year construction period and over 100 full-time jobs once operational