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VEA to break ground on campus expansion

Valley Electric Association officials will break ground on the new $10 million expansion project at 10 a.m. next Friday, kicking off a 12- to 14-month construction project.

The new facilities will include a new community conference center, an enhanced customer service center and a new building for the cooperative’s operations, dispatch and engineering departments.

The new 33,374-square-foot building was valued at $1,862,269 by the Pahrump Building and Safety Department, based on the square footage. The remodels were valued at $473,280 for the administration building and $99,082 for the conference building, which are based on contractor’s costs provided by VEA to the building and safety department. In addition to those figures are a lot of other improvements in the campus expansion project, from expanding the parking lot to technology upgrades.

“VEA has grown rapidly in recent years as a result of our proactive business strategy and continued dedication to our member owners,” Tom Husted, VEA chief executive officer said. “As a result of our continued growth, we simply do not have enough existing space for our operations in Pahrump. This carefully planned campus expansion project will offer a solution to this problem by providing our cooperative with enough space to accommodate our growing workforce for years to come.”

The expansion is also designed to offer improved levels of technology in support of VEA’s effort to attract renewable energy generators, he said.

The project team includes Par Development Inc., Martin Harris Construction and Pugsley Simpson Coulter Architects. VEA plans to enlist local subcontractors.

The construction will be done in four phases, beginning with the addition of new parking areas. The second phase will be the operations, dispatch and engineering building, which VEA said will feature energy-efficient technologies, including a self-contained geothermal system for heating and cooling. In addition to a conference room, offices and storage areas, there will be a state-of-the-art dispatch center.

The third phase will be renovating the lobby of the administration building, with an added bathroom and hallway to the new operations, dispatch and engineering building. For safety reasons, VEA will temporarily relocate its customer service center to the former engineering building for six to eight weeks, probably in the third quarter of this year.

The final phase will transform the engineering building into the Valley Conference Center, a fully-equipped, 6,600-square-foot facility that will provide a spacious venue for meetings, concerts and other events.

“We look forward to providing our members with a new location for the meetings and events that bring us together as a community,” Husted said. “As a community-oriented organization we take pride in giving back to our member owners.”

During presentations at the district meetings last month, Husted said the cooperative is simply out of room to hold things like staff meetings. VEA increased its work force by 13 jobs to 112 employees with an aggressive expansion, including signing contracts for large, federal facilities like the Nevada National Security Site and Creech Air Force Base. The cooperative has had as much as three gigawatts of proposed solar projects in the area, Husted told members. VEA is in discussions with FirstSolar which has plans to build a photovoltaic project in Amargosa Valley capable of generating 110 megawatts.

When Valley Electric became a member of the California Independent System of Operators in January 2013, it required an upgrade to a 24-hour, seven day per week dispatch center.

Husted told members at the District 1 meeting at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino on March 11, “We have some of the lowest interest rates in history and some of the lowest construction costs so now is the perfect time for us to go ahead and expand our campus.”

Besides the co-op, Husted said the conference center could be used as another facility for the general public for things like art shows. He estimated there could be enough seating for perhaps 350 people, but Husted said it isn’t large enough for the annual meetings, which can attract as many as 1,000 people; this year it’s scheduled the day after the groundbreaking, April 26, at Pahrump Valley High School.

There could also be more solar panels behind VEA buildings in the future, beside the Renewable Energy Test Center, which is being used by a California company to test their equipment. Husted told members at the District 1 meeting the VEA ambassadors will be considering a plan for providing distributive energy to members with photovoltaic panels, expanding more into solar following the successful solar hot water program, which already has 825 installations. Husted recently told the VEA renewable energy committee members could purchase solar panels, which would be installed on VEA property instead of at their homes and the amount of energy generated by those panels would be deducted from their bill.

The plan is considered very preliminary at this point and there weren’t any formal details, like whether members would purchase the PV panels like solar hot water heater systems, with no money down, paying off the system in installments with no interest, but realizing savings on their power bill.

Community members can RSVP for the April 25 groundbreaking event by contacting VEA Member and Communications Coordinator Dax Whittle via email at daxw@vea.coop.

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