Are you tired of hearing reactionaries, conservatives, and Republicans bashing renewable energy? “It costs too much,” they whine. “It benefits from government subsidies which put a burden on poor taxpayers,” they chant in unison, conveniently looking away when similar government subsidies pad their own pocketbooks.
If renewable energy is so awful, why on Earth would 8minute Solar, NV Energy, and the Moapa Band of Paiute Native Americans be building a new solar power plant in Nevada and fortifying it with 540 MWh of battery storage? To listen to the know-nothings tell it, such an undertaking must be the work of stupid people intent on throwing their money away on some cockamamie scheme that will surely be a miserable failure.
That’s right. NV Energy, part of the Warren Buffet intergalactic empire, and 8minute Solar, the largest solar developer in the US, are ignorant buffoons who should have court appointed guardians to manage their affairs since they think pouring money down a rat hole in pursuit of a ridiculous dream is a good idea. Or maybe it’s the reactionaries, conservatives, and Republicans who need court supervision?
The Southern Bighorn Solar & Storage Center will include a 475 MW DC (300 MW AC) solar array with 540 MWh of lithium-ion battery storage. It will be built in Clark County on the Moapa River Indian Reservation about 30 miles north of Las Vegas. The project will be the largest solar plus storage center in Nevada, as well as the largest solar plus storage center built on tribal land in the United States to date. Southern Bighorn’s power will be fully dispatchable; which means it can provide power throughout the day and during evening peak energy hours.
In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, Tom Buttgenbach, CEO of 8minute Solar, said, “We’re proud to be working with NV Energy and the Moapa Band of Paiutes on this innovative project to deliver low-cost dispatchable clean power for Nevada’s residents and businesses. This is our second project working with them both, and together we’ve been able to deliver fantastic value once again.
“Southern Bighorn will deliver clean power at an average price (including time of delivery adjustments) of about $35 per MWh, which is below the cost of fossil fuel-based generation. (Emphasis added.) For a solar PV plant, incorporating a 540MWh Li-Ion battery system, this is truly industry leading. Nevada is becoming a solar leader and, with 900 megawatts of solar projects, 8minute is proud to be the state’s number one solar provider.”
Doug Cannon, CEO of NV Energy, had this to say. “We are delighted to be working with 8minute again to bring low-cost clean solar power and energy storage to our customers in Nevada. We’re committed to solar and clean energy that reduces costs for our customers. The Southern Bighorn Solar Plus Storage Center helps us to continue to reduce carbon emissions, to diversify our state’s electricity generation portfolio and do so at industry-leading low costs.”
Southern Bighorn Solar & Storage Center will be built on non-agricultural land using environmentally sensitive construction near a retired coal plant. More than 600 workers will be employed during the construction phase. When complete, it will be the fourth solar project developed on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. The Moapa Band of Paiutes has become a national clean energy leader and will host over 1 gigawatt of solar on its 72,000-acre reservation.
Subject to final approval by the Nevada PUC, construction of the new facility will begin in mid-2022 and be operational by the end of 2023. Southern Big Horn Solar Center will have an annual production capacity of over 1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) once complete, enough for more than 180,000 homes — or 455,000 people. It will reduce carbon emissions by more than 600,000 metric tons each year. 8minute Solar has engineered the combined solar plus storage facility to have a capacity factor of more than 65% during the most valuable summer hours.
Energy Poverty On Tribal Lands
According to a recent article by Forbes, Native American lands located in the lower 48 states could produce as much as 17.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar energy — more than four times the total energy generation in the United States in 2018. Yet more than 14% of people living on tribal lands have no access to the electrical grid — ten times the national average.
Grid Alternatives is a leader in bringing renewable energy to underserved communities. In 2018, it established the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund to create more public/private partnerships to bring renewables to tribal lands. To date, it has had a hand in 652 small solar projects that eliminate 94,000 tons of carbon emissions while saving Native peoples more than $27 million in energy bills.
Not only is solar plus storage now cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuels, it is also a powerful tool for social justice, bringing energy to communities that have gone without access to a reliable supply of electricity for almost a century. Reactionaries, conservatives, and Republicans may have no place in their lives for social justice, but a nation that aspires to greatness must always make adequate provision for its citizens with the least political power.