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August 4, 2015

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County backs proposed solar energy farm near Laughlin

Construction could begin this year or early 2012

Image

Justin Bowen

Laughlin and Bullhead City, Ariz., as seen in 2011.

Clark County will begin negotiations with a Chinese company that wants to bring a massive solar energy farm and a factory to manufacture solar panels to Laughlin.

Voting unanimously, commissioners expressed strong support for the development that many say could be the start of diversifying a state economy that historically has relied almost exclusively on tourism.

“I want these negotiations to go as quickly as possible,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whose district includes Laughlin. The county will begin getting appraisals for 5,400 acres slated for development and return relatively quickly with estimates.

The land targeted by ENN Mojave Energy Corp. is about 90 miles south of Las Vegas, near the southern point of the state in a place that would make it relatively easy to connect to power transmission lines in California, which ENN hopes to target.

When completed, the factory and an area for an industrial park would sit on 300 to 400 acres about 12 miles south of Laughlin, east of Needles Highway and west of the Colorado River. The factory would create about 2,000 skilled manufacturing jobs, according to county documents.

The average annual pay for such jobs was $72,000 in 2007, according to the company. However, it wants to build more than the factory. Sisolak said that after the factory is complete, workers will spend the next two to three years building solar panels for a massive solar plant on 5,100 acres on the west side of Needles Highway.

The total cost is estimated at $4 billion to $6 billion.

Construction of the 500,000- to 1 million-square-foot factory could begin this year or in early 2012. Manufacture of solar panels would begin in March 2013. The plant would produce from 2.7 million to 5.4 million solar panels a year.

The first phase of the solar farm would begin operating in March 2014, the second phase in March 2015 and the third in March 2016. A fourth phase is also possible, according to company documents.

Sisolak met with company officials a few weeks ago when the parent company, ENN Group, was described as the largest energy company in China. Company documents say it employs more than 25,000 worldwide in more than 100 subsidiaries. In 2010, it had revenue of $3.7 billion and assets of $6.1 billion.

ENN chose Laughlin after surveying the Southwest and finding few other states with large swaths of land available for development, Sisolak said. The company wants to sell the energy generated by the project to California power companies.

Sisolak said the selection of Nevada was aided by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s April trip to China, where he met ENN officials. Reid’s involvement will also be crucial for obtaining a federal waiver needed for the development to happen — the 5,400 acres under scrutiny are part of 9,000 acres conveyed to Clark County by the Colorado River Commission in 2007. County documents say the 5,400 acres are encumbered by a patent restriction that limits development “which must be waived or modified by the federal government to allow the proposed (solar) development.”

The 5,400 acres at issue are near the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. Although most of the 42,000-acre reservation is in Arizona, it spans the Colorado River, and 5,500 acres of it cover the southern tip of Clark County.

A real estate agent in Laughlin said land in the area considered for the solar array and factory sells for about $10,000 an acre. If Clark County got that price, it would reap $54 million.

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