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December 22, 2014

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Gibbons dedicates solar plant near Boulder City

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Heather Cory

Gov. Jim Gibbons speaks at the dedication ceremony of Sempra Energy’s new El Dorado Energy Solar facility Thursday. The 10-magawatt project is located adjacent to the company’s existing natural gas power plant near Boulder City.

El Dorado Solar plant

Yvonne Szymczak, left, and Brok Armantrout look at more than 167,00 solar modules over 80 acres of land at El Dorado Valley at Sempra Energy's new El Dorado Energy Solar facility on Thursday. Launch slideshow »

The Eldorado Valley’s second solar plant is providing electricity to California, and while Boulder City doesn’t receive any of the plant’s sun-generated power, it is helping make Southern Nevada a hub for creating clean, renewable energy.

This morning, Mayor Roger Tobler ceremoniously flipped the “on” switch during El Dorado Energy Solar’s dedication ceremony.

Amid nearly 1,700 black glass panels spanning 80 desert acres, Gov. Jim Gibbons called Southern Nevada the solar capital of the region.

Today’s groundwork will establish Nevada as an “energy-exporting state well into the future,” he said.

In February, Tobler helped dedicate Acciona Energy’s 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One, the Boulder City Energy Zone’s first renewable power plant. Most of that power also goes to California.

For Boulder City now, what’s more important than running its homes and businesses with electricity from the sun is renting its land to operators and becoming a home to the newest technologies in power generation, Tobler said.

The city receives about $1.2 million a year from both plants for land leases and gets the satisfaction of encouraging renewable energy production, he said. More money will come later, if the plants exercise options, he said.

The El Dorado Energy Solar 10-megawatt thin film photovoltaic plant opened in December after almost six months of construction. It can supply power for 6,400 homes in central and northern California at its peak, said Mike Allman, president and CEO of the plant’s parent, Sempra Generation.

Gibbons said Nevada has improved the permitting process for solar plants and is planning to put together a new electrical grid system.

“We’ve been advancing the process to enable companies to come and establish, manufacture and generate energy into the market,” he said.

During the ceremony, he said Nevada leads the nation in producing the most solar energy per capita, and he wants to make renewable energy one of the state’s base industries.

“The value of solar energy is incalculable,” he said.

Solar is important to the region as much as to each state individually, public utilities officials from Nevada and California said.

“We really do have to operate on the basis of Western regional cooperation,” California Public Utilities Commissioner John Bohn said.

Neal Schmale, president and chief operating officer of Sempra Generation, went further.

“Energy efficiency and renewable energy and not just California and Nevada issues. There is a need for cooperation nationally and internationally,” he said. “This is one small example of what can be done if we work together.”

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

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