By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
Regional electric utility NV Energy announced plans on Thursday that it would add six new solar generation facilities to its lineup in Nevada. One of those solar fields will be built on the Moapa Paiute Indian Reservation. This would be the second industrial grade plant built and in operation on the Moapa tribal land.
“We are happy that we got something going on this project,” said Moapa Tribal Chairman Greg Anderson of the proposed plant. “It will be a great opportunity for the tribe bringing economic development for the native community as well as for surrounding communities.”
The proposed 300 megawatt solar photovoltaic facility will be developed by 8minutenergy Renewables, the largest independent solar and storage developer in the United States. It would be located on 2200 acres of tribal land directly west from the existing First Solar plant which is currently in operation on the reservation. It would replace the First Solar facility as the new largest solar installation to date built on tribal land.
“We are honored to be working with NV Energy and the Moapa Band of Paiutes to bring this remarkable project to fruition,” said Martin Hermann, CEO and Founder of 8minutenergy. “The Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm will deliver abundant and affordable energy to about 180,000 Nevada homes, providing them with reliable clean power. This will also be the largest standalone project in 8minutenergy’s portfolio, and we are dedicated to upholding our track record of finalizing the plant’s operation on-time and on-budget.”
The project is expected to commence construction in mid-2020, and be operational by the end of 2021.
According to a press release from the company, the new plant will have an annual production capacity of over 900 million kilowatt hours once complete, enough energy for more than 180,000 homes when producing. It is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 600,000 metric tons each year, according to the release.
The project’s development and construction is also expected to create well over 600 jobs in Clark County, the release states.
The state-wide NV Energy plan to contract more than 1,000 megawatts of new renewable resources in Nevada came as part of a resource plan that the company filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) on June 1.
The plan projects a direct investment of greater than $2 billion, according to an NV Energy statement released last week.
Included in the plan were also five other solar projects. Three of the contracts were set for southern Nevada. In addition to the Moapa facility, the Copper Mountain Solar 5 project, a 250 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant and the Techren Solar V project, a 50-megawatt photovoltaic project, will be located in Eldorado Valley south of Boulder City
Three new plants are also planned for northern Nevada including the Battle Mountain Project, 101-megawatt photovoltaic project near Battle Mountain; the Dodge Flat Solar Energy Center, a 200-megawatt project located east of Reno; and Fish Springs Ranch Solar Energy Center, a 100-megawatt project located north of Reno.
In addition to the generation plants, the NV Energy plan includes – for the first time in Nevada – a 100-megawatt investment in integrated battery energy storage systems charged by solar energy. These facilities will be located at the three northern plants listed above.
All of the projects are expected to be completed and serving NV Energy customers by the end of 2021, according to the NV Energy statement. Collectively, the projects will be able to generate enough power to serve more than 600,000 typical Nevada homes.
NV Energy’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Caudill said that the renewable energy expansion is the largest such investment in the state’s history.
“The six new projects position NV Energy to keep its commitment to double renewable energy by 2023, and, importantly, by diversifying our state’s electricity generation portfolio, will reduce the costs to serve customers,” Caudill said.
Embedded in last week’s messaging from NV Energy was a clear implication that the company might drop all of these plans if the Energy Choice Initiative, known as Question 3, should pass in the November election.
The resource plan leaves the option for NV Energy to not proceed with the plan “in order to avoid increasing the liabilities and risks to NV Energy customers.”
Question 3 would enable Nevadans to choose their own energy supplier through the establishment of a competitive market in the state.
A PUCN report stated that NV Energy would most likely be required to divest its power plants and power generating assets if the Question 3 passes. The report claimed that this would leave ratepayers covering any financial losses in that event.
Supporters of the initiative say that it would bring more affordable energy options. Supporting studies have claimed that Nevadans would see their monthly bills decrease by roughly $11 per month.
Opponents of the bill say it would lead to higher energy bills. Many rural energy cooperatives and districts in the state have expressed concerns about the initiative saying that it would disrupt their modes of business which have been in place, and have served rural communities well, going back to the 1930s.
These concerns extend to the Overton Power District (OPD), power provider for the communities of northeastern Clark County including Moapa Valley.
“Although there are some great promises made, the Energy Choice Initiative (ECI) was never written with Nevada rural electrics in mind,” wrote OPD General Manager Mendis Cooper in the January 2018 edition of the OPD monthly newsletter. “But the wording of the ECI has brought ‘every person, business and association of persons’ into the mix. Every other state that has implemented an energy choice mandate excluded rural electrics. Dragging the rural electrics under the umbrella of a big city solution will create a lot of confusion and difficulty in this process.”