Amargosa Valley solar project moves forward

A proposed solar energy project in Amargosa Valley moved another step forward this week.

The Nye County Board of Commissioners entered into a development agreement for the project during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

According to backup material on the county’s agenda, the project will be undertaken by Sunshine Valley Solar, LLC. It will be constructed on more than 700 acres of private property in the tiny town roughly 45 miles west of Pahrump.

Under the terms of the agreement, the parent company, First Solar, will pay Nye County a one-time fee of $10,000 to provide staff and equipment for the Amargosa Valley medical clinic during the construction period of the 65-megawatt photovoltaic power plant.

The company will also reimburse the Nye County Sheriff’s Office for any overtime incurred during the project.

Bobby Lewis, the county’s planning director, said that the company has an excellent track record judging from previous solar power projects worldwide.

“They look to be a great company and their parent company is First Solar, who has been in business for a number of years and they are one of the first to do the photovoltaic solar panels,” he said.

Lewis also said that under the terms of the development agreement, a reasonable effort must be made to hire Nye County applicants for construction and operation of the project.

A workforce of more than 300 individuals will consist of laborers, craftsmen, supervisory and support personnel as well as construction management personnel.

“That will be a great shot in the arm for the local community. After the project is completed, they will employ a small number of people to maintain the site,” he said.

Additionally, Lewis said Valley Electric Association is playing a big role in the project, which will include a half-mile transmission line to connect to the electric utility’s nearby 138-kilovolt substation.

“The power will go into Valley Electric’s grid. Usually with these types of projects, you want to be close to a major transmission line. When the electricity is produced, it will eventually be purchased. I think it’s a good project for the county. They want to be good neighbors to Amargosa and are contributing to some of the facilities in the area,” he said.

The photovoltaic modules will be installed on fixed-tilt mounting systems and will rise up to 13 feet above ground at the highest point.

Nye County Commissioner Frank Carbone said he was impressed with the company’s credentials.

“As far as the company is concerned, they seem to be pretty well known. There are several branches throughout the United States and other countries as well. Wherever there is a lot of sunlight they are out there. The panels are made in the U.S. and other places. I have not heard anything negative about them so as far as we know everything looks very positive,” he said.

Carbone’s positive feelings about the company and project was shared by those who provided public comment on the item.

Local resident Donna Lamm urged commissioners to approve the agreement.

“I have looked at some of the plans for this project in Amargosa Valley and I feel that it fits the criteria really well for a well-placed and technologically correct way to go with solar energy. It’s on previously disturbed land, it’s near transmission lines and it uses little or no water whatsoever. I feel this is an excellent project. If we are going to do solar, let’s do it right and in my opinion this is the right way,” she told the board.

Amargosa town board member John Bosta said he too was in favor of the facility.

“I would just like to say that our board has approved the project and we have sent a resolution to you saying that we do support this project and I believe that says it all,” he said.

J.W. Cunningham is a resident of Amargosa Valley. He told the board that he has some concerns about the project.

“My only problem is that they haven’t started building it yet. We really need this in our community and we hope it goes forward without a lot of complications,” the resident said.

Following a brief discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to enter into the development agreement.

The project will not take place anytime soon as groundbreaking is scheduled for early 2016.

Once complete, officials say the facility would be in operation for about 25 years.

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