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The economy:

Solar array manufacturing plant opens in North Las Vegas

Amonix Solar Power Ribbon Cutting

Justin M. Bowen

Gov. Brian Sandoval addresses the crowd during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Amonix, a California-based solar power company that recently opened its new North Las Vegas facility, Tuesday, May 17, 2011.

Amonix Solar Power Ribbon Cutting

Gov. Brian Sandoval addresses the crowd during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Amonix, a California-based solar power company that recently opened its new North Las Vegas facility, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Launch slideshow »

North Las Vegas celebrated the completion of a new solar project Tuesday that is bringing more than 300 jobs to the economically beleaguered city.

In October, California-based solar power company Amonix broke ground on its largest manufacturing plant, located at the Golden Triangle Industrial Park near Craig Road and Interstate 15 in North Las Vegas.

On Tuesday, energy executives and Nevada politicians from the federal, state and local levels heralded the newly completed, 214,000-square-foot facility as an important milestone in the state’s push to become the nation’s green energy leader.

“This is the essence of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said above the din of the manufacturing plant. “Not only do I want Nevada to be the renewable energy capital of the United States, but I want it to be the renewable energy capital of the world.”

Amonix and its partner, Flextronics Industrial, will manufacture concentrated photovoltaic solar power systems at the new plant, producing about four solar panel arrays — each 50 feet by 72 feet — a day.

The Amonix 7700 systems, each weighing more than 11 tons, can generate enough solar energy to power up to 30 houses daily.

The plant will operate around the clock, churning out solar power systems that could generate 150 megawatts of electricity each year, enough to power 50,000 homes, said Amonix CEO Brian Robertson.

“This technology is ideally suited for Nevada,” Robertson said. “We concentrate the light on very high-performance cells in really sunny places like Nevada, where there are 300-some-odd days of direct sunlight each year.”

Amonix ships many of its solar panels to clients in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, but hopes to establish more energy partnerships in Nevada. In recent years, Amonix has built solar arrays for UNLV, NV Energy and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“We hope to work on more projects with people here in Nevada,” Robertson said, adding that Amonix is working to secure energy contracts with MGM International and for the new water reclamation facility and Veterans Affairs hospital under construction in North Las Vegas.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., whose district includes the plant, said Amonix will help North Las Vegas and the state recover from the recession. The facility was financed with a $5.9 million investment tax credit from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act awarded to Amonix in 2010 and another $12 million in private capital.

“I’m a great proponent of diversifying our economy in this state,” Berkley said. “I believe that the future of this state can be found in renewable energy. We are creating an entire economy based on green jobs.”

The new Amonix plant will employ 333 southern Nevada residents in management, technical and production jobs paying an average of $18 per hour, plus benefits. That’s good news for North Las Vegas, which has a 17 percent unemployment rate, officials said.

“We’re glad for southern Nevadans and North Las Vegas residents to go back to work,” North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck said. “North Las Vegas has the highest unemployment, unfortunately, in this state, and we’d love to see that number go down.”

“North Las Vegas has such potential for these types of projects and for Amonix to be our first big project to come in, they’ve set the bar really high,” Buck said.

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