Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 | 2:03 a.m.
Thursday’s article “Solar power’s future not as bright after initial building boom,” by Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times, runs contrary to clear evidence that the large-scale solar industry is thriving in the Western U.S., particularly in Nevada.
Although the article includes a small list of California solar thermal projects that have failed because of poor siting decisions resulting in environmental opposition, it omits numerous photovoltaic projects that have succeeded, including several projects First Solar has in development or under construction, or which First Solar has already delivered to owners in the Southwest. In California, we are building three of the largest PV solar projects in the world, representing a combined capacity of 1,300 megawatts of solar energy. In Arizona, First Solar has developed and has constructed projects adding up to more than 300 MW. Most of these projects are already providing clean energy to the grid.
First Solar also has a number of other highly advanced projects in various stages of construction and development throughout the West that should be considered. And we are only one of several companies successfully developing PV solar facilities in the West. Industry totals are significantly higher. Large-scale energy resources can take years from conception to reach commercial operation; by focusing only on completed projects, the article overlooks the enormous pipeline of projects in construction and advanced development that are poised to fulfill the promise of clean, cost-effective and reliable energy in the West.
In Nevada, First Solar alone has developed, constructed and delivered to owners solar power plants that now generate more than 250 MW of clean, carbon-free PV solar power. These projects have created thousands of family-wage construction jobs, substantial state and local tax revenues, and other benefits to local economies. These power plants generate enough electricity to power the annual energy needs of up to 80,000 typical homes and displace approximately 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — the equivalent of taking 30,000 cars off the road.
It is also inaccurate to claim that large-scale solar development is stalled for the foreseeable future. In Nevada, First Solar will soon commence construction on two projects totaling more than 500 MW.
The 250 MW Silver State South solar project in Primm is expected to receive its final permits from the Bureau of Land Management next month and, during construction, will create more than 1.3 million man-hours of work through 300 family-wage jobs for Nevadans. We estimate the project will produce more than $30 million in property taxes (net of state-authorized abatements), most of which will flow to Clark County, and that it will generate almost $10 million in sales tax revenue.
First Solar has already begun early-construction activities on the 250 MW Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project, on the Moapa River Indian Reservation about 80 miles north of Las Vegas, creating jobs and revenue for the tribe. Our Stateline project, in development on BLM land just across the California border, will add another 300 MW when it commences construction this year.
Last year, Nevada enacted a pair of groundbreaking, visionary laws — Senate Bills 123 and 252 — setting in motion the decommissioning of the coal-fired Reid-Gardner Generating Station, replacing that capacity with 350 MW of additional renewable procurement and augmenting Nevada’s renewable portfolio.
Combined, these laws will create an additional demand for more than 1,300 MW of renewable energy in Nevada, much of which will likely be served by utility-scale PV solar facilities constructed by Nevadans to meet Nevada’s growing demand for cost-effective, carbon-free energy.
Nevada’s abundant solar resource, favorable policy environment, skilled workforce, elected leadership, and effective state and federal agency personnel clearly make it today’s front-running solar market in the western U.S. Nevadans can be proud of their leadership and should anticipate even greater success in the years to come.
Jim Woodruff is vice president of state and local government affairs for First Solar.