Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2017

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Guest column:

‘Solar gardens’ should bloom in Nevada

In November, Nevada’s voters gave the Legislature a mandate with 72 percent support for the Energy Choice Initiative, ballot Question 3.

Clearly, Nevada’s families and businesses want energy options. In addition to reviving our state’s rooftop solar industry, we will work to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, class or home ownership status, can benefit from Nevada’s abundant sunshine.

Clean-energy leadership is a priority of ours this session, and here’s why: Nevada’s elderly residents and communities of color are particularly vulnerable to a high-energy burden, spending a larger portion of their income on energy costs as compared to others. Also, 450,000 Nevadans are renters and don’t have the option to install rooftop solar. Many homeowners have homes shaded by trees, or otherwise lack a suitable roof for solar installations. The good news: We have a solution.

My colleague, Sen. Patricia Spearman, and I are proud to be teaming to introduce Senate Bill 392, which would enable the development of community solar. Also known as “solar gardens,” community solar projects generate electricity for a nearby “subscribers” such as households, small businesses, schools and nonprofits. On average, community solar customers receive a 10 percent reduction in electric costs via a utility bill credit, and help drive market demand for solar development. Community solar is simple, straightforward and popular across party and state lines because it helps make clean energy more accessible and affordable for more Americans.

SB 392 is the first step toward giving Nevadans the energy choices they voted for in November and an exciting opportunity to join 14 states and the District of Columbia, where community solar programs are successfully underway.

According to the Department of Energy, Nevada ranked in the top five states in installed solar electric capacity in 2015, and Nevada leads the nation in solar power potential. Harnessing our state’s full energy potential — via rooftop, large-scale and community solar — will help us do more to deliver the energy choices that Nevadans want.

Our community solar bill will unlock more clean-energy choices, develop and deliver locally-produced power and create good-paying jobs. The solar industry is growing 12 times faster than the overall economy, employing more than 200,000 Americans in white- and blue-collar jobs alike. Our bill provides additional benefits and opportunities to a much greater number of Nevadans and will brighten Nevada’s image as a clean-energy leader.

We encourage all interested Nevadans — voters, businesses and community organizations — to come to the Legislature when we hold hearings on this bill, share your vision for Nevada’s new energy economy and tell us how it can serve you.

Sen. Moises “Mo” Denis is president pro tempore of the Nevada Senate.

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