Nevada Gold Mines plans to convert the coal-fired TS Power Plant to natural gas and build a solar plant on the same TS Ranch near Dunphy to boost efforts to reduce the company’s carbon dioxide footprint in Nevada.
The projects are in line with NGM’s “mission to reduce greenhouse emissions,” as well as the missions of NGM operator Barrick Gold Corp. and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, said Greg Walker, executive managing director of Nevada Gold Mines.
Barrick holds 61.5 percent and Newmont Corp. owns 38.5 percent of the joint venture that combines not only the mines once owned by the two companies but also their ranches and power plants. NGM also owns the Western 102 natural gas power plant near Reno and a solar facility there.
Walker said the conversion of the TS Power Plant should be completed in 2022, and the plant will still retain capacity to revert to coal if the need arises. The plant produces 215 megawatts of electricity, with the coal-fired furnace heating water into steam to produce the power.
The estimated cost for the gas conversion is $40 million, which Walker said would result in strong dollar support because gas is cheaper than coal. The solar plant will be more costly at an estimated $120 million for the first phase.
He said the solar plant is a “good initiative. Barrick and NGM are reducing environmental impact where we can.”
The solar project will be done in two phases. Permitting is anticipated in the third quarter of this year through the first quarter of 2021.
“Each phase will be on between 600 and 700 acres,” said Tim Juvera, head of energy and asset management for NGM.
The TS Power Plant will put 215 megawatts into the power grid at the Falcon substation, and the solar plant will add 100 megawatts in the first phase, for a total for the two projects of 315 megawatts. The second phase of the solar project would add another 100 megawatts.
The TS plant conversion to natural gas would save 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, and the first project phase of the solar project would save 130,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, Walker said.
The conversion of the TS Power Plant still depends upon permitting, and Walker said the permits are expected toward the end of this year. Coal contracts will continue into 2020, but after the conversion “the plan is to run on natural gas,” he said. If coal is needed, NGM will buy it on the market, but the contract would end.
Coal trains now arrive via a railroad spur to be unloaded at the power plant.
Once permitting is in place, gas lines will be installed from the Goldstrike mining area on the Carlin Trend, where the Ruby Pipeline currently takes natural gas, Walker said. NGM uses natural gas at the Carlin operations for the roasters that process ore.
Juvera said after the line is tapped at Goldstrike, there will be 22 miles of pipeline to the TS Power Plant.
He said permitting for the gas line is required from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
The Western 102 power plant began producing electricity in 2005, putting 115 megawatts into the Nevada power grid. The solar plant produces 1 megawatt. Barrick built the plant to reduce energy costs in Nevada.
TS Power Plant went into production in 2008, also to reduce energy costs. Elko Daily Free Press files show Newmont initially spent $620 million to build the plant, which was considered state-of-the-art for its low carbon dioxide releases.
“It’s still one of the cleanest if not the cleanest coal power plant in the U.S. We’re very proud of that fact, but it is still coal-fired,” Walker said.
He said the TS plant has 70 employees, who all work for NGM, but the Western 102 plant is contractor-operated and there are 19 employees.
Electricity generated at the NGM plants goes onto the power grid, and NGM receives credit for the power. The company is billed for the power operations use beyond the credited amount, Walker said.
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