Valley Electric Association will build a 15-megawatt solar project in the northern part of Pahrump, which should be up and running next year.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid made the announcement of the 80-acre “community solar garden” with VEA CEO Tom Husted at the eighth annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid said. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The project will utilize Nevada union workers and American-made materials in the construction phase of the project and will generate affordable renewable energy while creating new jobs and tax revenue within the state.
The solar project is slated to start producing energy on July 1, 2016. Bombard Renewable Energy, a division of Bombard Electric, LLC, an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of MDU Resources Group, Inc., a Nevada-based company, will handle engineering, procurement and construction for the project.
The work includes the installation of 54,000 photovoltaic panels across an 80-acre project site. The project will use American-made photovoltaic panels, inverters and steel throughout the solar field. The project will also include the construction of a 2,640-foot, 24.9-kilovolt distribution line.
In addition to the power generated, adding to the local workforce will also come out of the deal.
The work will be carried out by union labor and provide an estimated 200 jobs during the construction phase.
In addition, VEA and Bombard are working closely alongside state and federal agencies to protect the Mojave Desert tortoises at the project site.
This includes various designs and construction elements, including the creation of an expansive temporary habitat for desert tortoises. VEA will also create and fund research and monitoring studies in partnership with government agencies and regional researchers to examine the impact of solar panel configurations on local vegetation, the tortoise population and birds.
A power purchase agreement with Nevada Valley Solar Solutions I, LLC, another indirect subsidiary of MDU, which will run the solar plant and sell the energy to VEA, will allow VEA’s fixed-rate to be one of the lowest-priced solar energy contracts in the nation.
“This is a solar project that truly stands alone,” Husted said. “At VEA, we value innovation and member service. Our status as a member-owned electric cooperative allows us to develop opportunities that promote local economic development while strengthening Nevada’s renewable energy industry. We are committed to positioning Nevada as a leader in the national renewable energy market, and we hope this innovative endeavor serves as a benchmark for future community solar projects across the country.”
Bo Balzar of Bombard agreed with Husted, stating that the company is happy to be collaborating with the electric co-op.
“Bombard has been involved in Nevada’s renewable energy industry since the beginning, and we are proud to be working with VEA,” Balzar said. “This project proves it is possible to develop renewable energy economically while at the same time safeguarding the environment.”
The new solar project will provide VEA member-owners in southwestern Nevada he opportunity to participate in a new community solar program at no additional cost.
“We are developing this community solar program to meet the growing demand for alternatives to rooftop photovoltaic systems in our communities,” said Chris Brooks, VEA’s executive vice president of energy services. “We look forward to providing our member-owners with a new, cost-effective option that can immediately reduce their energy expenses.”
The output of the project will be available for all VEA members at a lower price than their current electric rates. The program will allow VEA consumers to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy without the investments and deals that those who have solar panels of their own set up.
Additional details about the community solar program will be released within the next several months.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter James DeHaven contributed to this report.