Las Vegas Valley Water District to build 3.1 megawatt solar project

The Las Vegas Valley Water District and Nevada Power Company jointly announced on Mar. 2 the regulatory approval of contracts with PowerLight Corp. to proceed with a 3.1 megawatt solar power project. On Feb. 23, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada approved the project, which consists of four solar electric systems at the Water District's Las Vegas Springs Preserve and three systems located at reservoir sites within the water distribution system. The Water District's board of directors approved the contracts in October 2004. In addition to producing clean, renewable power over the next 30 years, the solar arrays at the Springs Preserve will provide shaded parking for up to 200 cars. The solar project, which uses no water and is emissions-free, is expected to become operational in 2005.

"The District's mission is to provide reliable, quality water and to ensure the sustainability of our desert community," said Pat Mulroy, the district's general manager. "This project is part of our continuing commitment to serve our customers and protect our environment. It will provide visitors to the Springs Preserve with a direct experience with clean power generation."

"Many people in Nevada have worked for the past five years to craft what are the best renewable energy laws in the United States," said Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). "I salute this landmark solar project, the people who helped make it possible and the great collaboration it represents between the Las Vegas Valley Water District and Nevada Power."

"The District's project was competitively selected by Nevada Power, as part of its 2003 Renewable Energy Request for Proposals, on the basis of a large number of factors including cost and the experience of the team," said Roberto Denis, senior vice president of generation and energy supply for the company. "One of solar's key benefits is that it produces maximum power during the summer season — when electricity use is at its highest. This project will add to Nevada Power's renewable energy portfolio."

"By constructing this ambitious solar project, the Las Vegas Valley Water District is illustrating Nevada's environmentally responsible approach to energy use," said PowerLight Executive Vice President Howard Wenger. "Solar power is a practical and affordable mechanism for reducing grid instability, especially during peak electrical demand hours — at times when state transmission lines are the most constrained. This project benefits all southern Nevada utility customers."

"Nevada is a state rich in sunshine. When Nevada enacted this legislation in 2001, it was our hope that we would begin to intelligently use our most abundant resource," said Jon Wellinghof, Nevada energy attorney who drafted the Renewable Energy Legislation.

"The Water District's project is especially significant because it generates electricity at the site of energy consumption. Distributed generation helps reduce electric line losses, reduces transmission constraints and improves system security," said former Assemblyman Jason Geddes, sponsor of AB 296. "Distributed generation is the future of the electric grid."

About the Project

  • The project consists of photovoltaic ("PV") systems located at four district sites; most noteworthy is the Las Vegas Springs Preserve where the technology and installation will be an intrinsic element of the visitor's experience.
  • Over their thirty-year operating life, the solar electric systems will generate clean electricity and save the equivalent of 5.8 million barrels of oil. By avoiding hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the project is the equivalent of planting 1,320 acres of trees or not driving over 350 million miles.
  • The project will be built by PowerLight Corporation, the leading manufacturer and provider of large solar projects, which has successfully built more than 300 large scale solar projects since 1991.

About the Springs Preserve
The district also is steward to the Springs Preserve, the historical home of Las Vegas' founding springs. The district is a partner in developing the preserve into a cultural resource center, featuring exhibits, trails, gardens and more. The project is scheduled to open in 2006.

About Nevada Power Company
Nevada Power Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sierra Pacific Resources, is a regulated public utility engaged in the distribution, transmission, generation, purchase and sale of electric energy in southern Nevada. Visit www.nevadapower.com.

About PowerLight
PowerLight is the a manufacturer and supplier of large-scale solar electric systems and energy efficiency services. Visit www.powerlight.com.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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