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May 6, 2015

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Las Vegas flips the switch on 15,000 solar panels


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Tom Perrigo, chief sustainability officer for the City of Las Vegas, “flips the switch” on their new three-megawatt solar panel installation Thursday, April 18, 2013.

New Las Vegas Solar Facility

Guests and media gather as the City of Las Vegas dedicates its new three-megawatt solar panel installation Thursday, April 18, 2013. Launch slideshow »

With the flip of a switch, Las Vegas city officials today celebrated the powering up of 15,000 new solar panels that will provide energy to a nearby wastewater treatment plant.

The ground-mounted panels are packed tightly on 25 acres of city-owned land near Vegas Valley Drive and Nellis Boulevard.

The site had previously been a vacant strip of land the city used as a buffer for its wastewater treatment plant, which processes all of the city’s wastewater on its way to Lake Mead.

During the dedication ceremony, Mayor Carolyn Goodman touted the project as part of the city’s comprehensive sustainability plan, which includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling and waste management.

“It’s all about sustainability for the city and our citizens to make sure that we’re using every resource that we can to keep down the costs of energy,” she said. “The council wants the financial resources we have available to go as far they can.”

The $20 million project will generate 6 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to provide about 20 percent of the treatment plant’s power.

Because the plant accounts for a third of the city’s annual energy bill, the solar panels will provide a big savings, Tom Perrigo, the city’s chief sustainability officer, said.

“Our energy spend breaks down to about a third for wastewater treatment, a third for street lights and a third for city buildings,” he said. “By providing solar here at this facility, we’re able to make a big impact on the city’s overall energy consumption.”

The three-megawatt solar panel installation is the largest in a growing portfolio of renewable energy projects owned by the city.

Solar panels installed at 29 other city-owned buildings generate a combined two megawatts of power, bringing the city’s total capacity to five megawatts and hitting a benchmark set by the city council in 2008.

Perrigo said the solar panels and other energy efficiency programs, such as installing LED light bulbs, have helped cut the city’s annual energy bill from $15 million to $10 million over the last three years.

The treatment plant project was funded using money from the city’s sanitary enterprise fund. Using rebates and grants, Perrigo said, the city is able to drive down the costs of installing solar panels.

The renewable energy projects will pay for themselves in about 25 years, but they are expected to be in use for upwards of 40 years, he said.

“The cost is neutral to the general fund,” he said. “They pay for themselves and will continue producing power for many years.”

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  1. IF they make it for the 40 years than this is all worth it. The 40 years is going to be the big question though.

    I hope they are right.

  2. If they were actually profitable private businesses would be utilizing them. But since they are not, it's always government proudly installing them at taxpayers expense.

    What about repair and maintenance over 40 years? No way do I believe it will ever payoff....and we are the ones to get the bill.

    And why does the city need a chief sustainability officer? If the city wants to sustain itself financially, it can start be eliminating these types of useless bureaucratic positions.

  3. Holy crap! The only thing City of Las Vegas Chief Sustainability Officer Tom Perrigo is sustaining is his luxurious lifestyle!

  4. Extrapolating from above: Solar panels cost $1 mil per 1% of waste plant consumption alone, plant = 33% of city consumption. Rough figures mean $300 mil for 100% of city consumption.

    With the city electric bill stated at $15 mil before solar, if I'm on track taxpayers are spending $300 mil to replace $15 mil annually requiring 20 years to break even not considering annual maintenance, labor and management costs plus unexpected.

    Realistically, with equipment failures and total operations costs a rough estimate makes breaking even a best case scenario.

    The next issue will be disposal of the millions of solar panels and associated hazardous waste required for the total effort state wide and nationally over the next 25 to 40 years. It may or may not be a successful effort but it sure is expensive considering existing infrastructure and logistics networks.

  5. I've always thought that soloar powered street lights were a good idea....Of course changing the structure of the electric grid and the cost to maintain them would be high.

    Doing some math here....and correct me if I'm wrong...

    20 % of 1/3 is 6.6%

    So, this 20 million dollar project is going to provide 6.6% of the city's electric bill a year?

    What is the cities electric bill per year, so we can figure out what this project will actually benefit the city with as a financial pay off each year? Less repair and maintenance to the panels of course, and the 218k a year this guy in the picture makes a year.......

    Sometimes I think all the information is not provided in stories and to the media because the math simply would not add up.

  6. .....on second read, the city's annual electric bill is 15 million. These cost 25 million, and will cover 6.6 percent....eeshh...for a city with trailer park school's I would rethink that spending awfully quick. But the guy making 218k a year wont promote that mind frame.