Solar Power to Pay Nevada City’s Debt, Government Costs for Decades

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Copper Mountain Solar 1, the largest solar PV plant in America

Boulder City, Nevada is best known as the home of Hoover Dam, once the largest hydroelectric power plant in the country. But the rapid expansion of solar power projects is quickly making a name for the city as the first solar-financed town in America.

A solar power building boom is happening in the community, located about 25 miles south of Las Vegas. This boom will soon generate enough revenue to eliminate Boulder City’s municipal debt and stabilize its financial needs for years to come, according to Mayor Roger Tobler.

The city is already home to Copper Mountain Solar 1, the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the U.S. at 58 megawatts (MW), and Nevada Solar 1, a 65-MW concentrated solar power facility. But local officials, sensing a unique opportunity to expand renewable energy in their community, set aside 8,000 acres to develop an “energy zone.”

All 8,000 of those acres will soon be generating about 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy—enough to power 420,000 homes. In addition to two planned expansions of Copper Mountain Solar 1, and an expansion of Nevada Solar 1, the city has entered into lease agreements for three new solar power projects within the zone.

All of that solar power adds up to much more than just clean energy—it adds up to stable revenue for decades to come. The combined lease payments for the solar facilities will total at least $12 million a year, and through the life of the contracts, the city will collect around $480 million in rent.

But solar power’s economic impact in Boulder City goes far beyond future lease payments. Two of the companies currently developing new solar facilities contributed $8.5 million in upfront payments, and the third contributed $500,000 to build any type of renewable energy project on public buildings. Construction is expected to generate up to 3,000 local jobs, and the city has set aside land for the University of Nevada Las Vegas to build a solar energy technology demonstration site.

Boulder City’s example won’t work in every community, but it does provide a good example of how to build a clean energy future and stable economic base. “Our solar lease revenue has helped us maintain our levels of city services and programs during a very difficult financial time,” said Mayor Tobler.

Considering the 2011 municipal budget was roughly $25 million and the city had $96 million in debt, solar power has made Boulder City’s economic future very sunny indeed.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Image courtesy of Sempra U.S. Gas & Power

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