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Divided commission supports VEA solar plant tax abatement

The Nye County Commission approved by a vote of 3-2 to pass a tax abatement application for the future Valley Electric Association solar project to be sent back to the governor’s office of energy for approval.

A tax abatement is a program that reduces or eliminates the amount of property tax owners pay on new construction, rehabilitation and/or major improvements.

Chris Brooks, executive vice president of energy services for VEA, explained that the solar project, which will be located on an 80-acre parcel of land at 2371 E. Simkins Road and is estimated to cost $32 million, is able to apply for a pair of tax breaks.

“In 2009 the Nevada Legislature created a renewable energy partial abatement of property taxes for renewable energy projects and they also created a renewable energy partial abatement sales and use taxes for qualifying renewable energy projects,” Brooks said. “The Valley Electric community solar project that we’re working on in the north end of the valley qualifies both of those business development incentives that were created in the Nevada State Legislature to try to get more development of renewable energy projects in Nevada.”

The process is a back-and-forth one involving a state agency and the county.

“The project submits an application to the governor’s office of energy and the governor’s office of energy then compiles all of the data in that application and sends it back to the county that the project will take place,” Brooks said. “Then the county has an opportunity to weigh in on the merit of that project.”

Whenever anything tax related comes up the general public usually has negative things to say about the situation, but Brooks explained that this hasn’t been the case in this instance.

“We’ve had overwhelmingly positive reaction by our members and residents of Pahrump about what this means for the community,” he said. “It’s a great project that brings a tremendous amount of value to Nye County and to Pahrump and to the members of Valley Electric Association.”

One other gripe county residents have is that if something is going to be built in the area that the labor used to construct the facility should be mainly based out of the area as well. While Brooks could not give an exact number on the amount of local workers that will be involved in the solar project, he did say they will be included.

“We’re going to use a considerable amount of Nye County labor to construct this project,” he said. “I wasn’t able to and the contractor wasn’t able to provide the amount of what that percentage would be at the hearing yesterday (Tuesday) due to the fact that the project hasn’t been manned yet.

“We are fortunate that we have a company and a contractor here in Nevada that has built over 100 megawatts projects exactly like this in-state, so we don’t have to go out of state for labor. It’s all in-state and it’s all southern Nevada and there will be several members of our community working on it and several contractors from our community working on it as well.”

While Bombard Renewable Energy will construct the actual solar site, VEA is in charge of the early set-up work.

“We have through the process of negotiating the power purchase agreement, we have an engineering, procurement and construction contractor as part of the agreement that we made had been selected to build the project,” Brooks said. “So we are doing some of the initial work, the civil construction work and site preparation work and then the EPC contractor will take it from there and build the actual plant. We will then connect the plant to our distribution system and Valley Electric will do that work.”

Construction on the is slated to begin by the end of the year with the entire project being completed by mid-summer of next year.

“We will be delivering electricity to our members in July of 2016,” Brooks said.


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