Solar plant outside Tonopah to increase annual output

After less than a year of operation, Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility in Tonopah plans to increase its annual output of megawatt-hours.

“Over the next year we’ll be increasing our production rates to 500,000 megawatt-hours annually,” said Mary Grikas, vice president of communications at the Santa Monica, California-based SolarReserve, owner of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant and its technology.

The Crescent Dunes facility delivered its first megawatts to the grid during a test run in October, 2015.

The project passed the necessary tests to reach full commercial operation under the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with NV Energy in November, 2015.

The Crescent Dunes solar plant is a 110-megawatt plant with 10 hours of energy storage, which enables on-demand energy production day and night throughout the year. The facility was designed to meet NV Energy’s peak demand periods, which extend into the evening hours, typically until about midnight.

“The key intellectual property at Crescent Dunes is comprised of SolarReserve’s molten salt technology, which includes the molten salt receiver designed and manufactured by SolarReserve, the heliostat collector field controls and tracking system, as well as the molten salt energy storage system,” Grikas said.

“The project here in Nye County Nevada has helped establish the U.S. as the leader in solar-thermal technology, and is being used as a blueprint for projects around the world,” she added.

Officials also praised the economic benefits of the plant that created cash flow for Nye County.

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said the impact of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility on the county has been positive.

“They brought in jobs, nearly all available housing has been filled, new businesses have been established, partly due to the project. All of which is in addition to the contributions to Nye County’s tax base,” Wichman said in an email.

The facility has an operation and maintenance staff of 38 positions, 45 percent of which were hired from the Tonopah area, according to SolarReserve data.

“During the 30-year-plus operating life, the facility will expend more than $10 million per year in salaries and operating costs,” Grikas said.

By value of assets only for ad valorem tax, the facility is one of the main taxpayers in Nye County, along with Round Mountain Gold, Premier Chemicals and a few others, Wichman said.

The project is forecast to generate more than $73 million in local and state tax revenue over first 20 years of operation, according to SolarReserve.

“Since it’s a first-of-its-kind facility, we have had visitors from around the world tour the facility – staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants, etc. These visitors are raising awareness of Nye County globally,” Grikas said.

The project is expected to generate more than $750 million in private capital cost investment in Nevada.

Since the start of its commercial operation on Nov. 1, 2015, Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility paid $50,000 in sales taxes. Additionally, the facility paid $2.29 million in property taxes since that date.