News Releases

Pinon Pine Power Plant Begins Combined Cycle Operation

Sep 19, 1996

Sierra Pacific Power Company
Contact: Karl Walquist/Robert Sagan
Phone: (775)834-4345

For Immediate Release

Sierra Pacific Power Company's Pinon Pine Power Project reached a major milestone this week when the combined cycle plant was started up for the first time. Last month, the project's gas turbine, the first advanced model 6FA turbine ever manufactured by General Electric, was started and allowed to run at full speed. This week the steam turbine, also supplied by GE, turned for the first time, and both generators are now providing electricity to the grid. Following extensive testing and fine tuning, the plant is expected to be completed and operating at full capacity within the next month.

Pinon Pine is a state-of-the-art,"clean coal technology" electric generating plant, located at the site of Sierra Pacific's Tracy Generating Station east of Reno. It will provide 107 megawatts of electricity and serve more than 60,000 homes. Construction began in February 1995.

The plant will be capable of burning gasified coal and natural gas, with the option of using the least expensive fuel available at any given time. The capability of switching to the lowest cost fuel will help Sierra Pacific keep utility bills lower.

Pinon Pine uses a conventional, natural gas-fired combined cycle turbine as its heart. Adding a coal gasification capability to the plant will convert coal to a clean fuel gas, which will be burned in the advanced, high efficiency combustion turbine beginning later this winter.

For increased efficiency, exhaust from the turbine is also used to produce steam, which is expanded through another turbine. The superheated, high-pressure steam drives the condensing steam turbine-generator, which produces additional power without using additional fuel.

The $220 million facility is half funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and is the least-cost option for the utility to provide electricity to its customers. The DOE also will pay half of the costs for the plant's first four years of operation and maintenance, estimated at $70 million.

The DOE has stated that the project will"offer significant environmental and energy efficiency advantages over today's (electric generating) technology." Pinon Pine's"clean coal technology" sharply reduces the emissions commonly associated with coal combustion. It will be the most efficient generating unit on Sierra Pacific's system, and will require significantly less water than needed by current coal plants -- an added benefit in a desert environment.