City of Las Vegas
Monday, April 18, 2011 | 1:18 p.m.
Map of Mirabelli Community Center
6200 Hargrove Ave., Las Vegas
Despite an unusually hazy sky, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman flashed a beaming message Monday morning to celebrate the completion of a new energy-saving program that harnesses Southern Nevada's abundant sunshine.
"It's win-win, not only for NV Energy, but also for the city of Las Vegas," Goodman said, standing in the shade of one of the new solar carports at the Mirabelli Community Center, 6200 Hargrove Ave.
The mayor, other city officials and NV Energy officials took part in a ribbon-cutting event that celebrated a $6.8 million effort to install similar photovoltaic panels on carports at seven city facilities.
The project was funded in part by federal grants and by a $3.2 million energy rebate from NV Energy, which covered about a third of the cost.
City Manager Betsy Fretwell said the project was good for the community on several levels — the city will save money on energy costs, the solar panels will provide anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the energy demand at each facility and the installation created or retained 74 jobs.
The panels are estimated to save about $60,000 at the Mirabelli center alone.
They have also been installed at the Centennial Hills Community Center, Durango Hills Community Center, East Las Vegas Community Senior Center, Veteran's Memorial Community Center, All American Park and Ed Fountain Park.
The seven projects can generate 1.8 megawatts of electricity, which would be enough to power 260 homes, Fretwell said. The solar carport projects will also reduce the city's carbon footprint by more than 2,000 metric tons, she said. She also recognized the efforts of Tom Perrigo, the city's deputy director of administrative services, who oversees the city's sustainability projects.
"It's a great day today, being able to combine the sustainability of solar energy along with everything else we're trying to do in the city," City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian, who was instrumental in getting renovations at the Mirabelli center, said it was one of the most-used centers in the city.
Tarkanian also thanked the city's sustainability department, which, she said, has won several national awards for sustainability efforts. She pointed out that the center also has a community garden for residents in the neighborhood to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
"These solar carports are just one of many things that the city's doing through its sustainability office," she said.
She said it's important for the city to push for these projects to create new jobs in the community.
"With Earth Day taking place on Friday, it's important we all think about ways we can save energy and protect our environment," Tarkanian said.
Tony Sanchez, vice president of NV Energy, said that, since 2004, the utility has given out rebates for about 985 similar projects across the state.
Sanchez said the $3.2 million rebate check that NV Energy presented to the city Monday makes Las Vegas the number one municipality for such projects in Nevada.
After the event, Sanchez said NV Energy's SolarGenerations program provides rebates to customers to help stimulate the use of solar panels on homes and businesses.
"If you were going to put a rooftop facility on your roof, we would give you about a third of the cost of the project," Sanchez said. "And that comes from rebates that all of our customers collectively throughout the state pay.
"You would also get a third from the federal government in terms of tax incentives. So the customer is responsible for paying about a third of the cost of the project."
Sanchez said the seven city carport projects are part of a series of other projects the city has done during the last seven years that uses federal funds to help them pay the city's part of the cost.
"They've had a very aggressive program over the last couple of years," Sanchez said.
One of the reasons the city puts a high profile on such projects is to try to attract solar panel manufacturers to the Las Vegas area, he said.
"The energy is consumed here. We'd like to see one day where the solar panels are manufactured here," Sanchez said.
North Las Vegas recently succeeded in attracting a solar manufacturer, Amonix.
"That's the first of what we hope to be many manufacturers," Sanchez said. "Everybody keeps saying we're the Saudi Arabia of solar potential. Well, we don't just want to build the projects, we want to do the manufacturing, because that's where the real jobs are."
About 74 direct jobs were either created or retained as a result of the project, according to City Manager Betsy Fretwell.
"Once it's done, then they go on to the next project," Sanchez said. "But how about a full-time manufacturing facility and get a hub here where we can start exporting these, whether it be to California or to Arizona or New Mexico."
Sanchez predicted that carports with electricity-generating solar panels will become the norm in the future in the private sector.
He said he's hopeful that Nevada's congressional delegation will continue to be able to get federal dollars flowing back to the states to help stimulate a market for solar panel production.
Without the federal rebates, it's still not cost effective for such projects to pay for themselves, he said.
"But I would point out the cost of these projects is dropping drastically," he said. "In the last two years alone, the costs of these panels to be manufactured has dropped 25 percent. So it's hopeful after several years, they'll be able to compete."