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Nye County trailing state growth in solar jobs

A new report released this month shows jobs within the Nevada solar industry grew 146 percent, and the state now ranks number one in the country in solar jobs per capita.

However, Nye County has yet to fully capitalize on the growth seen in the rest of the state, according to a county official.

The data, provided by The Solar Foundation, revealed the Silver State added roughly 3,500 solar jobs in 2014 according to the foundation’s solar jobs census. The foundation is an independent non-profit organization founded to increase the understanding of solar energy through research that educates the public.

The foundation’s data indicates state’s solar industry employed close to 6,000 Nevadans in 2014. The new 3,500 solar jobs in 2014 were the most ever added in Nevada in a year.

The figure more than doubled the total numbers of solar employment in the state and represents more solar jobs created in any state outside of California, in a single year according to the foundation.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement that the state leads the nation in solar jobs.

“Nevada is emerging as a leader in new technology and innovation and this announcement demonstrates the possibilities within our state if we continue to recruit the growing industries of the 21st century,” Sandoval said.

The solar industry employment growth allowed the state to rise back to seventh in the highest number of solar jobs by states. Employment in the solar industry in the state grew more than 53 times faster than Nevada’s average employment growth rate of 2.7 percent in the same period, much to the delight of the governor’s office.

Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky said though the news appears to be good for Nevada as a whole, he cautioned that Nye County is not seeing much by way of jobs within the solar industry just yet.

“We are not getting the bulk of the solar jobs that are coming in other than the big Crescent Dunes project in Tonopah, but that’s winding down,” he said.

The commissioner also noted that many of the jobs within the solar industry are related to construction of the facility. The county has seen taxable sales decrease 30.6 percent between July and November, driven by the ending of construction at Crescent Dunes.

“Once you build it, the jobs drop way down next to nothing,” he said. “This week we are discussing an agenda item for approval on a local solar project out on Simkins. There’s another one when you first come into town which is another small solar project that some investors are interested in. We are starting to show a little more private stuff here on a smaller scale which is good for the community. The bigger projects on public land run into so much difficulty.”

Just last summer, The Nevada Public Utilities Commission approved a permit for a proposed 110-megawatt solar plant in Amargosa Valley.

The project is scheduled to be built on 745 acres of private land in the town west of Pahrump.

The project is expected to create 310 construction jobs, which the application states will be drawn from the local community as much as possible, but only eight permanent employees will be hired for operation and maintenance.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller noted the opportunities for renewable energy production in Nevada, specifically solar, are limitless and continue to serve as an important engine of economic growth and job creation.

“Putting solar energy on the same playing field as other important energy resources is critical to our state’s and our nation’s energy future,” said Heller in a statement. “No doubt, I am proud to see Nevada playing a leading role in our nation’s pursuit of a 21st century ‘all of the above’ energy strategy.”

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