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Energy Wars Raging All Around Mesquite
Posting Date: 06/26/2012

By John Taylor

“The race is on to get into solar projects in Nevada,” said Chris King, energy analyst for a Wall Street investment advisory company. “The time is right, the political climate is right, and who knows when it may all change.”

Those statements echoed the announcement by Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, that the federal government has approved a 350 megawatt solar energy project on tribal land on the nearby Moapa Indian Reservation, only 35 miles from Mesquite. “This project marks a milestone of the first-ever utility scale solar project approved for tribal lands intended to strengthen tribal communities,” said Salazar.

The project is the 31st utility scale renewable energy project the Interior Department has approved since 2009. Prior to 2009, there were no energy projects permitted on public lands.

“Tribal lands hold great renewable energy potential which will fortify tribal economies, create jobs and provide clean energy all across these communities,” said Salazar.

The Moapa project is expected to create 400 jobs in the construction phase and 15-20 permanent jobs. Built by K Road Solar, a national solar company, the project will be completed in three phases of 100-150 megawatts using photovoltaic (PV) panel arrays, a 500 kilovolt transmission line to deliver power to the grid, and a 12 kilovolt transmission line to power the existing Moapa Travel Plaza during phase one.

“As part of our negotiations with the tribe, we will provide job opportunities, IBEW union jobs and training in solar energy for tribal members interested in working on this project,” said Sean Gallagher of K Road Solar. “Receiving approval is only the first step. Now we will work on power purchase agreements, details on grid connections, and lining up a work force to complete this project. We are very exciting to be involved with the Moapa Indian tribe.”

The project will create enough energy to power 100,000 homes and will generate lease income and revenue over the initial 50 year term.

The announcement comes on the heels of the conflict raging between the tribe and NV Energy over the coal powered Reid Gardner plant near the tribal lands. Residents of the reservation have long complained the plant spews large amounts of coal ash from its huge smokestacks that have caused countless health problems and premature deaths of tribal members. NV Energy denies those allegations and says it has installed emission controls that captures 99% of all particulate emissions.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing all public comments and the issues in this complaint and will be making a determinations soon,” said Margot Perez-Sullivan of the E.P.A.

Using coal to operate power plants was the main reason for the downfall of the Toquop Power Project outside of Mesquite when environmental activists successfully objected to the possible health dangers.

Another solar project was to be built on Lincoln County land on the border of Mesquite on Flat Top Mesa but the downturn in the economy scuttled that project.

However, all around Southern Nevada solar and other renewable energy projects are booming. Just down the road from the Moapa Reservation in Lincoln County, an oasis in the desert seemingly in the middle of nowhere, sporting a new housing development, schools, a world class golf course and future solar power plant, Coyote Springs plans a solar thermal energy project on private property that could generate up to 600 megawatts of power. Other projects are either in progress or completed in Searchlight, Laughlin, Boulder City, Nellis Air Force Base, Primm and the Las Vegas Water District to name a few.

“Our solar lease revenue has helped us maintain excellent levels of city services and programs during a very difficult economic time,” said Mayor Roger Tobler of Boulder City. “In addition to clean energy, Boulder City will receive stable revenue for decades to come.” The city receives approximately $12 million dollars a year from lease payments, including $9 million in upfront payments, plus the creation of an estimated 3,000 jobs.

“Native Americans love their land and they want to use their land and their natural resources the best way possible and that could be to look to the future with solar power,” said John James, a Native American energy expert. “The future is now and the future is solar.”

“We are very excited about this project and we believe it will be a positive force across our land,” said William Anderson, Chairman of the Moapa Tribal Council. “Solar Power will demonstrate and prove we care about our land, our animals, our plants and our people. We will be more self-sustaining and will show other people, including other tribes, that we are in the forefront of caring about environmental issues.”

K Road Solar is currently developing additional projects on Indian Reservations in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. A spokesman for the company was asked if he was aware if any solar companies had ever looked at Mesquite for solar projects to which he replied, “it doesn't appear as though Mesquite is actively pursuing any renewable energy projects. We are not sure why.”

Delmar Latham, General Manager for Overton Power District, explained that the policies of Overton Power are to purchase resources for the long term to insure adequate supply. “We have purchased resources through 2017. To bring in a new power resource would displace existing resources. The earliest we could bring in an existing resource is January 1, 2018.”

The Moapa Indian Reservation solar project may have an impact on the conflict with Nevada Energy's Reid Gardner coal powered plant. Tribal members say they will not give up the fight to have the plant closed down.

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    Solar farms are funded by the taxpayer and customer. This means you pay for it twice! It costs almost double to get solar power to your meter. If solar power is so viable, why must it be subsidized? This is a big hoax folks! Many “solar farms” built in the 80’s and 90’s have been abandoned or just left to rot, as will this one. These people are spinning lies to get free money from Obama!
    By: Big Mon
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    ALL power is subsided, just like farm subsidies. I came from Texas where everything is subsidized including power and its #1 in the country. Besides, most solar plants are private companies with lots of financing already set up. You better check your facts, there are thousands of solar going up all around the country with no tax money.
    By: Sharon
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    Big mom misses the point. All energy production is subsidized However alternative energy is cheaper when all costs, including health and environmental costs are factored in something overton power refuses to acknowledge Mesquite is missing out on this opportunity because of outdated overton power policies Congratulations to native americans for giving the economy a boost.
    By: mmcgreer
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    Thanks Big Mon, you gave me a good laugh this morning. We give billions and billions and billions to Pakistan, Israel, Korea, Africa, half of Europe and you want to complain about doing something for us? Thanks for the chuckle.
    By: Larry
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    Yep, and sounds like the mayor of Boulder City is laughing all the way to the bank. Mayor Wier are YOU paying attention? 12 mil a year ain't to shabby.
    By: Nathan
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    I don't know too much about solar but I know the city of St. George has been going solar for several years and they are saving a ton of money on energy costs. Solar is going big all over Utah, especially southern Utah. It's everywhere.
    By: Bonnie
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    My question is and has been: Where is our solar project? You know, the one our former mayor and scam artist Susan Holecheck got elected on in 2007? Mesquite is PERFECT for a solar facility, with better infrastructure than Moapa, Searchlight, or Coyote Springs, and thousands of acres in useless land surrounding us, and a larger customer base. If this town had any leadership or vision at all, we would have been at the front of that parade. Now, once again, we're going to be left behind.
    By: Marvin
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    Dude, I would pay a little more in taxes if my electric bill went down about $150 a month. Summer is killing me.
    By: Paul
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    I have to agree with Marvin. Once more we are left behid by our council who have no vision. It is sad but Mesquite has small town thinking with no leadership.
    By: Tom
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    Solar is a big scam. Who do you think is paying for the $12 million? We are! and how long do the 3000 jobs last? If that's even true. I don't see any statistics on the return on investment either. Wonder why not!
    By: Mary
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    You think that was difficult, wait till I tell y’all about Santa Claus, your heads are going to explode! =:-0
    By: Big Mon
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    The city would be smart if it looked at this type of opportunity to diversify Mesquites economy. Mesquite could be a solar hub for Southern Nevada and that means JOBS. We need jobs now. Solar projects also bring anchillary businesses and that mean more jobs. Cities all around are going solar and Mesquite needs to diversify for growth. It would be a great opportunity for us. Screwing around with spending millions on soccer balls is insane, that brings no jobs and all the money goes to out of state companies. We need to look hard at this.
    By: Eddie
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    For all you folks that think our mayor and council will consider solar, remember Mesquite doesn't even have a energy task force.
    By: Frank
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  • Posted Date: 06/26/2012
    I would agree with Bonnie, part of my family live in St. G and they are putting solar everywhere in Utah.
    By: Ron
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    Cedar City is also starting one of the biggest solar projects in Utah and we can complain about the council but Overton Power District is the most backward power company in Nevada. Overton Power doesn't even care about solar nor plan to get it.
    By: Art
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    Anyone with half a brain should have figured out that Nevada needs to be in the forefront of both solar and wind energy. We have both in abundance! I am glad to see it beginning to happen.
    By: Karen
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