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August 23, 2019

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2 new solar plants boost Switch operations, state’s clean energy outlook

Switch 1 & 2 Solar Project Ceremony

Yasmina Chavez

Former Sen. Harry Reid talks to reporters following a ceremony to celebrate the commissioning of the 179-megawatt Switch Stations 1 and 2 Solar Projects, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. This is the first project to be built on one of the Bureau of Land Management’s Solar Energy Zones.

Switch 1 & 2 Solar Project Ceremony

Former Senator Harry Reid talks to reporters following a ceremony to celebrate the commissioning of the 179 megawatt Switch Station 1 and 2 Solar Projects, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.  This is the first-ever project to be built in one of the Bureau of Land Management's Solar Energy Zones. Launch slideshow »

Working toward Switch’s goal to have its data centers be 100 percent powered by renewable energy, the commissioning of a pair of solar projects on Monday represented a huge step forward.

Switch Stations 1 and 2, at the Apex industrial park north of Las Vegas, were dedicated by a group that included former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, the Bureau of Land Management’s Nevada director, John Ruhs, and others in a ceremony.

Reid said he doesn’t make a lot of public appearances but said the event was something he wanted to attend.

“Less than a decade ago, Nevada’s solar energy landscape was nonexistent, but this commissioning helps fulfill that vision I had to make our state the leader in renewable energy,” Reid said. “A technology giant like Switch using 100 percent renewable energy is truly visionary and grows our clean energy economy by creating hundreds of good-paying labor construction jobs.”

Power generated by the plants, which can muster a combined 179 megawatts, is owned by EF Renewable Energy and is provided to Switch via power purchase agreements through NV Energy.

“Power is foundational to our growth to data to make internet,” said Sam Castor, executive vice president of policy for Switch. “Our chief executive officer Rob Roy’s vision … is to ensure the data that runs the planet doesn’t ruin the planet.”

The project generates enough energy to power 46,000 homes and displace 265,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, or the amount of greenhouse emissions created by 52,000 passenger vehicles driven over the course of a year.

During peak construction times, more than 1,300 construction workers were on the job, logging about 550,000 work hours, installing the 1.98 million solar panels over the 1,979-acre project. The plant also employs five full-time workers.

The pair of facilities are the first to be built in a BLM-owned solar energy zone, which recognizes areas that are prime for solar development. The zone helps fast track the building process by having many of the issues of the potential facility area figured out ahead of the application process.

“This is a great example of the federal government and private industry collaborating on improving our nation’s energy independence and infrastructure,” Ruhs said. “You can’t begin to emphasize the importance of that partnership.”

The solar projects are the latest of many to go online in the state, making Nevada the top solar energy state per capita in the U.S., with 745 watts per person, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“With each of these projects we move closer to our goal in leading the nation in clean and renewable energy,” said Angela Dykema, director of the Governor’s Office of Energy. “Projects like these are the perfect example of what we can achieve with the commitment the state of Nevada has shown to growing our renewable energy economy and attracting emerging industries and forward thinking businesses to our state.”