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Clark County Commission:

Plan envisions solar power fueling iconic Las Vegas sign

Strip Photos

Steve Marcus

A view of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, Sept. 10, 2011.

Updated Saturday, June 29, 2013 | 9:10 p.m.

Map of Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign

The iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign could soon be powered by the sun if the efforts of a local group of environmental advocates are successful.

Clark County commissioners will hear details of a plan Tuesday to install solar panels at the site on Las Vegas Boulevard that has been a destination for tourists since the Betty Willis-designed sign was erected in 1959.

The panels, described in county documents as three “solar trees,” would provide enough energy to power the sign’s neon accents and the 89 light bulbs that rim its perimeter.

“It’s an icon of Southern Nevada and Las Vegas,” said Lydia Ball, executive director of the Clean Energy Project, one of the nonprofit groups behind the effort. “Powering (the sign) through solar, we feel, will show what our economy and renewable energy can do.”

Also involved in the effort are the environmental nonprofit Green Chips and Bombard Electric, the company that built solar panel installations at Las Vegas City Hall and the Clark County Government Center.

The project would be mostly paid for using a $50,000 donation from the Consumer Electronics Association, the organizer behind the annual Consumer Electronics Show, although fundraising is ongoing to cover additional costs, Ball said.

Final approval for the project would have to come at a future meeting.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is an enthusiastic supporter of the project and said it would help show visitors the commitment the region has to sustainability.

“It will be so cool,” said Giunchigliani, who is also a board member for Green Chips. “This will save money. It will show people from around the world about photovoltaics. It’s a win-win.”

The timeline of the project is in flux because of other improvements the county is making to the area surrounding the sign, including installing a crosswalk and expanding the parking lot.

Although there still are several challenges to overcome before the panels are installed, Ball said the completed project would add a glimpse of the future to one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

“The reason why I love the idea so much is it really tells the story about the existing economic driver, which is tourism and gaming, while the solar panels will represent a new industry that’s growing,” Ball said.

CORRECTION: The story has been changed to correct the attribution in the final quote to Lydia Ball. | (July 2, 2013)

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