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Meeting southern Nevada's electrical demands during the summer |

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Meeting southern Nevada's electrical demands during the summer

As the temperatures creep into the triple digits, the demand for electricity jumps up quickly.

Southern Nevadans can use more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity on the hottest days of the year. One-third of that comes from the Apex Industrial Park just outside of North Las Vegas.

Those natural-gas power plants use some innovative technology to minimize their impact on the environment while maximizing how much electricity they produce.

During the winter, the three power plants that make up the Arrow Canyon Complex can produce enough juice for more than half of southern Nevada's homes.

But it's a different story in the summer when the plants can be put to the test.

8 News NOW got an exclusive look inside the Chuck Lenzie Generating Station to see how it all works.

"It's extremely efficient," said Forrest Hawman, plant operations manager, NV Energy.

This is NV Energy's nimble workhorse sitting in the Nevada desert.

"This plant's unique, it's one of the largest of its type in the country," said Don Hopper, regional plant director, NV Energy.

He is in charge of the three power plants that make up the Arrow Canyon Complex.

The Chuck Lenzie Generating Station can produce more than 1,100 megawatts of electricity more than half the complex's capacity. That's enough to power 660,000 Las Vegas homes. It's a combined-cycle plant.
Four massive natural gas jet engines produce 1 million horse power turning turbines connected to large generators. The super-heated exhaust is then used to power two more turbines.

"We recapture the waste heat off the back of the gas turbine and generate steam, use that in a steam turbine to basically increase the output of the unit," Hopper said.

The steam doesn't go to waste. That's where a massive box comes in. It's one of the largest air-cooled condensers in the country.
to see how it works, the 8 News NOW crew had to go six stories up in the air.

There are 100 of the massive, 36-foot fans, drawing air up toward radiators, to cool all of the hot steam back into water. The water trickles back out of the air cooler and into the system to produce more steam.

The generating station doesn't always run at full capacity. Operations Manager Forrest Hawman says the plant increases and decreases how much power it generates on a second-by-second basis.

"How much renewables we have coming in, so like in the daytime, we have a lot of solar energy coming in, so this plant might back down a little bit to allow that to be used on the grid," Hawman said.

It's a flexibility, he says, that NV Energy takes advantage of to keep rates down.

"So, that way, you're always using the most-efficient, least-cost power that you can."

Water is an important part of the power plant. But by using air to cool the steam and circulate it back into the system, NV Energy says the Chuck Lenzie Generating Station is 93 percent more efficient than similar power plants that use water to cool the steam.

They say it doesn't make much sense to waste water in the desert.