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Company dumps big Laughlin solar project, says market won’t support it

Image

Justin Bowen

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

Updated Friday, June 14, 2013 | 5:55 p.m.

A Chinese-backed company is pulling the plug on a multibillion-dollar solar project near Laughlin after it was unable to find customers for the power that would have been generated there, a Clark County spokesman said Friday.

In a letter dated Friday, an executive from ENN Mojave Energy LLC informed the county that the company was terminating its agreement to purchase 9,000 acres near Laughlin, stating that the “market will not support a project of this scale and nature at this time.”

The company, a subsidiary of ENN Group, described as the largest energy company in China, said it was unable to sign the necessary power purchase agreements to sell the energy generated from the solar plant to utilities in Nevada or neighboring states.

When the plan was initially pitched to commissioners, developers said they planned to first build a solar panel factory followed by a massive solar energy plant on land 90 miles south of Las Vegas.

The project was broken down into phases, but if fully completed, it was expected to generate enough energy to power 200,000 homes with a price tag of $1 billion to $6 billion.

The move was hailed as a much-needed boost for economic development in the southern part of the state and was projected to create up to 2,200 permanent jobs.

Commissioners agreed to sell the land at $4.5 million — about a sixth of its appraised value — in December 2011 to jump-start the development, but they put in place an aggressive timeline that required ENN to secure the complicated power purchase agreements by the end of this month.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said it was a pleasure working with ENN, but “when it all came down to the end, they just couldn’t sell the power.”

“Alternative energies are still more expensive than fossil fuels and they couldn’t get (the costs) down to a point where they could sell any of the power,” he said. “Even if we had given them an extension for a year or two, it wouldn’t have made a difference.”

With the solar project now just a mirage, commissioners will discuss what to do with the 9,000 acres of county-owned land at their July 2 meeting.

Sisolak said job creation and economic diversification are the two biggest criteria he’ll use when considering future proposals.

The large size of the parcel should generate plenty of interest, said Sisolak, who envisions solar, industrial and manufacturing uses all fitting well there.

“There’s not many places you can assemble that big of a property,” he said, adding that he’s open to selling all 9,000 acres to a single buyer or breaking them down into smaller parcels.

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