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Do Las Vegas Casinos Use Green Energy?

As you would imagine, it takes an extraordinary amount of energy to power resorts in Las Vegas. With thousands of hotel rooms, neon signage, air conditioning, and slot machines humming 24-hours per day, casinos are tremendous consumers of electricity.

I was curious to dig into whether Las Vegas casinos are embracing green energy to save money and enhance the bottom line.

Why wouldn’t they? The desert southwest and Las Vegas, in particular, receive plenty of sun? Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to put that energy to use? It’s a bit more complicated than you would think.

Paris's Baloon illuminated at night
It takes a lot of juice to keep Vegas lit. May as well borrow it from the Sun.

Many folks are actually under the impression that Las Vegas is 100%, or nearly 100% powered by renewable resources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power from the Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, it’s not even close to being true.  

According to the US Energy Information Administration, 61% of Nevada’s power currently comes from Natural Gas-fired plants and only 33% of generated electricity came from renewable sources including hydroelectric. 

Those energy statistics reference the entire state of Nevada, however, according to the US Census Bureau 2.2 million people, or 73.5% of Nevada’s population which is estimated at 3 million, live in Clark County – The majority of Nevadans are clustered around Las Vegas.

Nevada resorts are required to buy energy from NV Energy and actually have to pay for the privilege of leaving the utility to produce their own electricity or buy it on the open market. The reason large organizations like casinos have to pay to leave NV Energy is to cover the cost of infrastructure that was built, in part, to support their energy needs. Casino operators are willing to pony up because they believe buying less expensive energy on the open market will more than make up for the fee. 

MGM Resorts filed their application to leave NV Energy in 2016 and paid $86.9 million for the right to shop for better rates and explore renewable options. Wynn Resorts paid $15 million. Caesars Entertainment will pay a total of $47.5 million to leave and instead buy its power on the open market.

Notable Solar Energy Projects Powering Las Vegas Resorts

In June of 2021, MGM Resorts brought a 100 MW, 323,000 panel solar array online that will power 90% of their 13 resort’s daytime operations. To put that in perspective, the new solar array generates enough electricity to power 27,000 homes. MGM aims to run on 100% renewable energy sources in the United States by 2030.

Mandalay Bay, which is also part of the MGM Resorts family, has 26,000 panels that cover 11 acres of the resort’s roof that supplies 25% of the casino’s energy needs. The solar array at Mandalay bay will save carbon emissions equal to removing 1,700 cars from the road.

Wynn Resorts has also embraced solar energy, opening a new 160-acre solar power facility in 2020 that generates up to 75% of the resort’s peak power needs. Additionally, Wynn has covered over 100,000 square feet of their resort rooftop with solar panels which generate enough electricity to power 5,056 homes.

Caesars Entertainment has committed to reducing emissions by 30% by 2025, and by 95% by 2050. While they don’t have a solar field of their own like Wynn and MGM, they purchase solar energy on the open market.

The City of Las Vegas has also taken a leadership role on the issue by sourcing 100% of power needed for municipal buildings from renewable sources. Sources for the city’s power include a solar farm outside of Boulder City, the Hoover Dam, and from solar panels installed over parking at 40 municipal buildings.

More and more Vegas resorts are opting to leave NV Energy at a hefty price to shop for cheaper energy on the open market and in some cases, harness renewable sources. It’s good for the environment, our health, and the bottom line of energy-hungry casinos.  

Related: Are Las Vegas resorts draining Lake Mead? The answer may surprise you.

Feature Image: ©agnormark/123RF

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