Innovation in solar technology helps conserve water, create jobs
Southern Nevada received some good economic news last month when Solar Millennium, a division of one of the world’s top solar power generators, announced new plans to use a “dry-cooling” system on two proposed solar power plants in Amargosa Valley, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. This dry-cooling system will use 90% less water than previously planned.
The impact of this announcement cannot be minimized, especially for skilled workers now looking for a job in this nearly impossible market.
We believe the decision to go to a dry-cooling process will ultimately speed up the approval process for the plants, allowing construction that will create jobs and clean energy to start earlier. It also means the plants won’t take up a considerable amount of water in Amargosa Valley, leaving resources available for residents, wildlife and potential future projects.
It’s also great news as we strive to build a clean energy economy in Nevada that not only creates thousands of good-paying jobs but also makes us energy independent, cuts pollution and stabilizes our power bills. Solar power represents a tremendous economic opportunity for our state, as this resource can be developed and sold to neighboring states.
Right now, even though Southern Nevada has an average of 330 cloudless days a year — the most in North America — we are home to just a few private solar power plants. We have a precious natural resource that could yield as much return as the copper, gold and other minerals hidden in the mountains of our Silver State — yet we let it go untapped.
Solar Millennium has plans in place to capture and convert this abundant resource with a couple of solar thermal power plants through private funding. Already the company is deep in the process of public hearings to win approval from the Bureau of Land Management to lease federal land in Nevada for the project.
Solar Millenium has a memorandum of understanding to sell its clean power to NV Energy, and its projects are on the Department of Interior’s “fast track” list to meet eligibility for funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This means jobs could be coming soon for Nevadans.
To earn that money, Solar Millennium must break ground on its projects in 2010. The company estimates that construction of the two plants will employ about 1,600 workers, while day-to-day operation of the plant will require about 200 workers.
Fortunately, Solar Millennium has promised not to repeat the mistakes of the past. A recent project in Boulder City employed out-of-country workers to build the plant for a fraction of the cost of local workers, even though the project received state rebates.
Solar Millennium, however, has pledged to use skilled Nevada labor to build the plants. It’s worth noting that NextLight Renewable Power, which is developing a solar power plant in Boulder City and another near Primm, also has pledged to use qualified local labor at both plants.
It’s a pleasure to work with companies that listen to the concerns of Nevadans and structure their plans to do the responsible thing for our community.
While Solar Millennium does have an initial agreement with NV Energy, we encourage our local power company to finalize an agreement to purchase this clean energy. NV Energy is the best potential partner for Solar Millennium.
NV Energy is already one of the more progressive power companies in the West, and it is on track to meet Nevada’s state requirement that 25% of our power be produced by renewable energy in the year 2025.
The company now has an opportunity to work with Solar Millennium, which has built successful solar power plants around the world, has multiple projects in the United States and has demonstrated that it is invested in our community.
We congratulate Solar Millennium for its thoughtfulness in the decision to go with a dry-cooling system. It will ultimately speed up two projects that will diversify our economy and create clean energy jobs here in Nevada, while providing stable, renewable and cost-effective electricity for Nevadans.