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ConEdison eyeing 100-acre solar field in western Pahrump

With much of Nevada located in what is known as the “sun belt,” renewable energy companies from all over the country have in recent years turned their attention to the Silver State and Nye County is attracting plenty of that attention too.

Just in the past two years, multiple solar farms have been proposed for areas like Pahrump, Amargosa and Beatty but a majority of these are planned for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Some companies however are taking the private route and investing in solar farms on privately owned lands, one of which is Consolidated Edison Development Inc.

Making an appearance before the Nye County Commission, sitting as the governing body for the town of Pahrump, ConEdison representatives gave a presentation providing an overview of its intended Basin Solar project. The project is proposed as a 20-megawatt photovoltaic solar field on 100 acres on the western side of Pahrump and could produce enough energy to power roughly 6,000 homes, company officials said.

Clay Jensen, representing ConEdison at the commission’s July 5 meeting, started off with some background on the company itself. He said in terms of installs and the operation of solar projects, ConEdison is the second largest solar developer in the country. As of today, it operates 30% of the solar capacity in the state of Nevada. He emphasized that ConEdison’s goal is to be a long-term owner and operator of Basin Solar and is not looking to sell the asset off once it’s completed.

“I know that the town board, as well as the county commission and the planning commission, you’ve had a lot of proposed projects in front of you over the last 12 to 18 months and are familiar with the way the technology works… So we just highlighted some of the things the community may not be aware of. There are quite a few myths when it comes to what solar projects may do to a surrounding area,” Jensen said, touching on some of the more contentious points involved with solar development.

He asserted that a photovoltaic solar field will not raise the ambient temperature around the site as other types of solar collection, such as the solar thermal power generation utilized at Crescent Dunes, can. “The photovoltaic technology is designed to absorb the heat,” he stated.

There will be typical construction noise as the field is built, but once in operation, the field will not produce noise, he explained.

“On average, there will be one truck visiting the site on a weekly basis so very, very light traffic,” Jensen detailed. “The site largely operates itself from remote communications.”

Basin Solar is set to be located on lands bounded by Basin Avenue to the south, Bannavitch to the west and Betty Avenue to the north. “The interconnect would connect with Valley Electric’s Charleston Park substation, which is about two miles away,” Jensen explained, noting that the company is currently looking at a system impact study to determine if there will be improvements needed to make that connection happen.

The site is also located in a flood zone, which would create major challenges for any other kind of development. Therefore, ConEdison believes that solar would be the best use of the land, Jensen reported.

Basin Solar will be much smaller in scale than many of the solar field projects recently discussed for Nye County lands, and located on private property rather than that which is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Construction should begin early next year and the site is anticipated to begin commercial operation by the end of 2023.

Moving on to the topic of water, Jensen said he realizes water resources are strained but the company does not intend to drill any wells to serve the site. Instead, the necessary water would be trucked in after being purchased from a local municipal water provider. For the construction phase, he estimated that 20 acre-feet of water would be used, primarily for dust control. After the field is operational, usage is projected to be two acre-feet or less per year.

As for benefits for the town, he said these would come in the form of taxes and the purchase of regional goods and services, along with up to 150 construction jobs.

When probed by commissioner Bruce Jabbour as to the number of permanent jobs that will be needed, Jensen said that was not nailed down just yet but he estimated it would result in two full-time jobs within the community. Jabbour then asked how much was being invested in the project, to which Jensen replied a ballpark total for the solar field would be about $40 million, of which roughly $15 to $20 million would be invested directly in Nevada.

Jensen said there are no power purchase agreements in place at the moment but ConEdison is discussing the possibility of VEA buying the power produced.

“We have a 100-acre parcel, so what’s the highest and best use? That’s what we need to know,” commissioner Debra Strickland remarked as the presentation came to a close. In her opinion, the benefits of solar on private land versus Bureau of Land Management land would be significantly higher. In addition, she remarked that if that same 100 acres was developed into homes, the flood insurance those homes would need would be very expensive.

“The two acre-feet ( of water to be used per year) is the equivalent of one home’s allowable usage annually,” Strickland continued. “The water I like a lot. I like that it’s on private land because we are not taking the people’s land… And I like the fact that you have to come and do a lot more work. You’re only doing a presentation to talk, currently. The steps that it would take for you to get this all the way through would include acquiring a Special Use Permit from the board of county commissioners. So you have to satisfy everybody.”

Nye County Planning Director Brett Waggoner added that ConEdison will be required to obtain a development agreement with the county, which will also give the county the ability to put stipulations on development.

For more information on the Basin Solar project email Robby@energyprojectsolutions.com or LordJ@conedceb.com

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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