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California’s Solar Need is Driving More Business to Nevada

PHOTO: They havenít even broken ground, but two Nevada solar projects already have buyers for 460 megawatts of clean energy right across the state line in California.
PHOTO: They havenít even broken ground, but two Nevada solar projects already have buyers for 460 megawatts of clean energy right across the state line in California.
October 22, 2012

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - California's growing demand for clean energy is driving business to solar projects in Nevada, even before they get built. Two Nevada projects already have buyers right across the state line in California for 460 megawatts of solar energy.

Tom Clark directs legislative and regulatory affairs for the law firm Holland and Hart, which sets up power-purchase agreements such as the one the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently signed. Los Angeles will buy solar power from the Copper Mountain 3 solar project, which is expected to go on line in 2016.

Clark says these agreements make it possible for developers to get construction financing.

"You've got to have a market, and southern California has demonstrated that they have the marketplace that Nevada needs to benefit from. We build these projects, and we sell the electrons into the California marketplace."

Clark says California's strict renewable-energy standard requires that 33 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2020. That's a major reason California utility companies are hungry to sign up for more solar and geothermal energy from Nevada.

Agreements were also signed with K Road Moapa Solar north of Las Vegas. Chairman William Anderson with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians says the agreement will allow his tribe to finally start moving into the solar business for real.

"That's a big milestone for us. Now we can go ahead and start working on construction here. The first site that we're working on is going to be for about 250 megawatts."

While Clark credits the federal government in helping kick-start the industry, he believes the real key for the future is the growing willingness of the capital markets to get involved.

"The capital markets are recognizing that there is good resource, not just in Nevada but through the West. We like the fact that they like Nevada, and they're stepping up and putting their risk on the line to see these projects be built."

Under the power-purchase agreements, the two Nevada solar plants will provide enough clean renewable energy to power 180,000 California homes starting in 2016.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV