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Palo Verde Delivers Clean-Air Energy 24/7

October 20, 2018

Nation’s Largest Power Producer Generates More Than 70 Percent of Arizona’s Clean Energy

Palo Verde Generating Station has been renowned for more than a quarter-century as America’s largest energy producer of any kind. Long regarded as the energy cornerstone of the Southwest, Palo Verde supplies more than 30 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year to homes, businesses and factories in four western states.

Three identical 1,400-megawatt units capture the attention of many of those passing by six miles to the north on Interstate 10, especially in the winter when plumes of water vapor from its nine cooling towers soar thousands of feet into the air. The only generating source in the United States capable of coming close to Palo Verde’s power production is the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state. Restrictions on water flow in the Columbia River, however, prevent the Grand Coulee from approaching Palo Verde’s level of energy output.

“A Point of Pride”

What the two plants – one hydroelectric and the other nuclear – have in common is that they both produce electricity that is 100-percent free of greenhouse gasses. They help keep the air clean. This is important everywhere, but especially in the fragile environment of the desert Southwest. Palo Verde produces more than 70 percent of Arizona’s clean energy.

Arizona Public Service, the operator and part-owner of the plant, provides an energy portfolio to its 1.2 million customers that is 50-percent clean. The bulk of that energy comes from Palo Verde. The rest of Palo Verde’s clean energy that goes to Arizona is distributed by Salt River Project, another plant owner and operator of its switchyard.

“Palo Verde is a point of pride for all of the people of Arizona,” says Bob Bement, APS executive vice president in charge of all Palo Verde operations. “Not only does Palo Verde provide a reliable source of electricity 24/7, year round, it provides environmental benefits that are irreplaceable, especially if we care about clean air and global warming.”

Nuclear power provides about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. In Arizona, that number is 30 percent. If not for Palo Verde, the brown cloud that overhangs the Phoenix basin in the winter (because of atmospheric inversion that traps small particles of pollution) would be much worse.

In recent years, Palo Verde annually has displaced more than 13,000 tons of sulphur dioxide, more than 31,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 23.8 million tons of carbon dioxide. Without the vast amounts of electricity produced at Palo Verde, Arizona would have no chance at meeting its clean energy goals.

Nuclear Supports Other Clean Energy Resources

Because Palo Verde is producing power at all hours – day and night – it supports the basic needs of customers when solar and wind inevitably are not available on a daily basis. It can facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and improve the environment by supplying zero-emission energy to charge EV batteries, instead of relying on natural gas- or coal-fired power to do the job.

If Palo Verde either did not exist or were forced to shut down, it would be replaced by large numbers of natural gas plants. Although these plants have become much more efficient over the years, they add air pollution that Palo Verde simply does not produce. The net result is, without Palo Verde, the level of renewables could increase but air pollution levels would go up as well.

Palo Verde’s unique method of cooling also produces major environmental benefits. Because it is the only nuclear power plant in the world not located on a major body of water, the station had to rely on an innovative solution to begin operations in 1986.

Wastewater is piped 36 miles from the western edge of Phoenix to Palo Verde, where it is super-cleaned at the Water Resources Facility and then cycled through cooling towers to enable the three units to operate. The reservoirs and evaporation ponds where the water is stored before and after it is used provides ideal habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds as they travel north and south throughout the year.

“No matter how you look at it,” says Bement, “Palo Verde makes Arizona better.”

Palo Verde

“Not only does Palo Verde provide a reliable source of electricity 24/7, year round, it provides environmental benefits that are irreplaceable, especially if we care about clean air and global warming.”

Categories: Clean
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