Thursday, June 21, 2012 | 1:33 p.m.
The federal government on Thursday approved a massive 350-megawatt solar energy project to be built on land in Clark County belonging to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians Tribe.
It would be the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.
The project, covering about 2,000 acres, would be located 30 miles north of Las Vegas and occupy about 3 percent of the tribe’s land, which is held in trust by the U.S. government.
The operation would generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes, the Department of the Interior said in a statement.
“Tribal lands hold great renewable energy potential, and smart development of these resources has the power to strengthen tribal economies, create jobs and generate clean electricity for communities across Indian Country,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.
Construction of the solar field on the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians land will be handled by K Road Moapa Solar LLC.
The project is expected to generate 400 construction jobs and up to 20 permanent jobs, according to the Department of the Interior.
When finished, it will generate lease income for the tribe and connect its existing power infrastructure, lessening reliance on diesel-powered generators.
The project furthers the Obama administration’s efforts to accelerate the development of renewable energy projects on publicly-held lands.
Prior to 2009, no utility-scale projects were under development on public lands.
There are now 17 solar projects, six wind farms and eight geothermal plants under development, with the combined potential to power more than 2 million homes, according to the Department of the Interior.
In May, Salazar visited the 50-megawatt Enbridge Silver State North Solar Project in Primm, the first large solar project to begin operating on public lands.