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August 22, 2014

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Another solar power plant in the works for Boulder City

The city expects to sign a contract with NextLight Renewable Power LLC by mid-April to build a 100-megawatt photovoltaic plant on 1,100 acres in the Eldorado Valley Energy Zone.

NextLight, which would plan to open in 2011, promised to provide Boulder City 3 megawatts of power at 90 percent of commercial rates if it builds there, City Manager Vicki Mayes said.

The land lease could bring the city about $2.4 million the first year of construction.

But before the City Council voted unanimously to start negotiations, Southern Nevada labor leaders pleaded to encourage NextLight and other future companies to hire local workers for construction and operation.

Mayes said she planned to discuss the possibility of hiring Nevada workers in the NextLight talks.

Greg Esposito, business representative for the Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Technicians Union Local 525, said especially now, big construction projects should pay attention to the region.

"In any economic climate, leaving as much money in a community is vital," Esposito said. "For paychecks to be crossing borders on a Friday afternoon doesn't help the community that projects such as these are designed to benefit."

The council also voted to allow NextLight, Martifier Renewables Solar Thermal LLC, and Green Tech Solar to test parts of the dry lake bed for potential solar construction there.

The city in October asked for proposals for renewable power plants in the energy zone, on an area near the Wastewater Treatment Plant and on part of the dry lake bed.

Eight companies responded by December.

NextLight will ask for a 40-year lease with an option for two 10-year extensions.

If the city can't come to an agreement with NextLight, it will start negotiations with Copper Mountain Power, which proposed a 130-megawatt photovoltaic plant.

NextLight also proposed a 250-megawatt Thermal Energy Storage plant on 2,000 acres on the dry lake bed. If the site is suitable, the company would expect to open the plant by August 2012 and offered the city $20 million in improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Plant with a 40-year lease and two 10-year extensions.

That lease could bring $3.8 million in the first year.

Meanwhile, council members expressed sympathy with the union leaders who complained that Nevada Solar One, the energy zone's first renewable power plant built by Spanish company Acciona Energy last year, hired workers from Central America and not Nevada, as it had promised.

Acciona got a $15 million tax rebate from the Nevada Commission on Economic Development to hire locally and pay the state's prevailing wage, but instead used workers from Mexico and El Salvador for "a fraction of the cost," Rich Johnson, president of the Southern Nevada Building and construction Trades Council, said.

Councilwoman Linda Strickland said if the city required in its contract that the companies use in-state labor, it would be difficult to enforce the provision.

"I haven't given a lot of thought to how that could happen, but I wanted to let you know that I'm with you, to protect the workers of our great state," she said.

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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