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Do Las Vegas Casino/Resorts utilize alternative energy sources?
Las Vegas Casinos are tremendous energy consumers. All of that neon, LED lighting, Air Conditioning, thousands of hotel rooms and even more slot machines humming 24 hours a day. 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 Valley have plenty of sun, wouldn’t it make a lot of sense? It’s a bit more complicated than you would think.
Many folks are actually are 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, 73% of Nevada’s power currently comes from Natural Gas fired plants and only 21.6% of generated electricity came from renewable sources to include 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 Las Vegas 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 from Tenaska out of TX.
With the departures, Las Vegas casinos are free to experiment with green alternatives for their mega resorts. One project of note is at Mandalay Bay, where 26,000 panels covering 11 acres of the resort’s roof supplying 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.
*Update 4/22/18* – MGM Resorts, owner of Mandalay Bay, announced in April of 2018 that they have partnered with Invenergy to build a solar array consisting of 336,000 solar panels that will supply 90% of MGM’s daytime power requirements. MGM hopes to continue to tap renewable sources of energy to reduce carbon emissions. The solar field is expected to come on line in 2020 and will power the equivalent of 27,000 homes. MGM CEO Jim Murren commented that “Protecting the planet is a business imperative for MGM Resorts and it is our responsibility to find innovative ways where we can use clean energy to power our resorts”.
Wynn Resorts has also embraced solar power and are planning to power 100% of the new Paradise Park project with the new panels located both on Wynn’s roof and a solar field nearby in Stillwater, NV. The Solar array powering Wynn Las Vegas will generate enough renewable energy to power 5,056 homes annually.
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.
Renewable energy is one area that casinos are looking to cut costs, but how do they make money? Check out our post that dives into where revenue comes from in the modern Las Vegas Casino!