Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2019

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Boulder City Council identifies site for another solar power plant

El Dorado Energy plant

Steve Marcus / Sun File Photo

A solar panel array generates electricity at the El Dorado Energy plant in Boulder City. The plant is about 17 miles from downtown on U.S. 95 south of the Eldorado Dry Lake Bed.

El Dorado Solar plant

Yvonne Szymczak, left, and Brok Armantrout look at more than 167,00 solar modules over 80 acres of land at El Dorado Valley at Sempra Energy's new El Dorado Energy Solar facility on Thursday. Launch slideshow »

The Boulder City Council has taken a first step toward creating a third solar energy zone near the Boulder City Airport to add to the two existing ones in the Eldorado Valley.

The council on Tuesday voted unanimously to add about 900 acres of desert between the Boulder City Municipal Airport and U.S. 95 to the city’s Land Management Plan for potential future development for a solar power plant.

That would allow for a fifth solar power plant in Boulder City. Two are open in the Eldorado Valley’s Energy Zone, and a third is under construction. The city is negotiating for a fourth plant on 2,100 acres adjacent to the Energy Zone it set aside last year for solar power.

Council members expressed concern about the proximity of the proposed fifth zone to the Boulder City Airport and the interchange of U.S. 95 and the proposed Boulder City Bypass.

City staff members had originally recommended 1,225 acres on a parcel whose borders came up to the airport’s southern fence and stretched across the proposed bypass route to include the property around interchange.

Councilwoman Linda Strickland asked whether a solar point in the path of pilots taking off and landing at the municipal airport would create a dangerous distraction. She asked resident Jim Douglass, a private pilot, to show the council the typical flight patterns on the map of the proposed solar zone.

“The concern is not only flying above the glare, but a lot of white aircraft can be lost in there and other pilots may have trouble seeing where you are as you make your pattern,” Douglass said. “It depends on the kind of facility that comes in here.”

Councilman Cam Walker said he did not want the solar zone to include frontage parcels along the proposed Boulder City Bypass in case the city wants to allow commercial development there at some point.

“With solar, the highest value is not to go by a highway,” he said. “That area is going to be a high value for our community, if the voters decide they want to use it that way.”

Given those concerns, the council voted to take about 300 acres nearest the airport and proposed interchange out of the plan and forward the proposed solar energy zone to the Planning Commission for inclusion in the city’s Land Management Plan.

The plan is a many-step process that identifies city property for sale or lease and allows public comments on the proposed uses.

The Planning Commission will decide whether the proposed use would be appropriate for the parcel, then return its recommendation to the council, which will decide whether to add it to the Land Management Plan.

Land sales and leases cannot be made without being in the Land Management Plan, but the city is not obligated to go through with every proposal in the plan.

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