Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2015

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Big plans for Laughlin solar plant are bogged down

Image

Justin Bowen

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

Back in June, some 40 degrees Fahrenheit ago, county commissioners swooned with excitement over the possibility of a Chinese solar power conglomerate investing $6 billion in solar arrays and industrial facilities near Laughlin.

Plans are for ENN Mojave Energy Corp. to build the megadevelopment on 9,000 acres of land it would buy from Clark County. Over several years of investment and growth, the development is projected to create 2,000 permanent, high-paying jobs.

So what’s going on with the project? Has the land been purchased yet?

The company wanted to begin construction of a plant to build solar cells this year or early next year, but the land deal still isn’t done. Getting a deal is taking longer than expected, said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whose district includes the land.

“Unfortunately, in a development this large and complex, you get many attorneys on each side and they parse every single sentence,” Sisolak said. “While it’s painful sitting through those meetings, and I’ve sat through several, we’re making progress.”

Then after the land is purchased, do the shovels hit the ground and the solar panel-development plant get built?

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

That would be nice. But there are big obstacles.

Sisolak says it could be 18 months before construction begins.

What obstacles?

After the county and ENN seal a land-purchase deal, the county is essentially done with the project. Then it comes down to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader.

Reid is a key player, Sisolak said, because he can help facilitate talks between ENN and California energy companies. That is important because ENN will not build the plant, even if it owns the land, unless it has a customer willing to purchase the electricity the project will generate.

“He’s working on it,” the commissioner said of Reid. “He opens doors.”

Any idea about the progress on agreements between ENN and California utilities?

Reid could not be reached for comment. But while the senator is in the best position to “open doors,” his aims don’t appear to square with those of California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown has said he’d like California to become an exporter of energy, not an importer. Then again, Brown also created a greater demand for renewable energy in California by signing into law a mandate that state utilities get 33 percent of their power from renewable sources. That’s an increase from 20 percent.

Nevada lawmakers in 2009 approved a 25 percent mandate for the Silver State, which takes effect in 2025.

The longer it takes to get a power-purchase agreement, the more time it gives California companies to develop renewable energy plants, making it more difficult for ENN to strike a deal.

So we shouldn’t be moving down to Laughlin and lining up for a new job just yet?

Not just yet.

•••

It’s a short agenda for Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, but one item may get some attention.

Which one is that?

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani’s proposal to amend the county’s ethics code. She wants to prohibit commissioners from consulting or lobbying while they serve on the board. Contrary to what the Sun reported last week, Tuesday will bring more than simply a reading of the amendment into the record. Commissioners may debate and vote on it during the meeting.

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