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October 24, 2014

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Boulder City finalizes deal for third solar power plant

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Tiffany Brown

The Sempra Energy solar plant, shown here, will be joined by yet another solar company after the Boulder City Council finalized a deal to lease about 1,150 acres in the El Dorado Valley to NextLight Renewable Power. The NextLight plant, which would be the third in Boulder City, is expected to be up and running by 2011.

Boulder City has finalized a deal with NextLight Renewable Power LLC to build a 150 megawatt photovoltaic solar power plant in the El Dorado Valley that will provide the city nearly $102 million.

The City Council approved the final details on June 9 with a 4-1 vote to lease about 1,150 acres of land in the city’s energy zone for $2.53 million per year. The term of the lease is 40 years with two 10-year renewal options.

NextLight, which will pay a fixed rate of $2,200 per acre for the duration of the contract, plans to start delivering energy in 2011.

The property was appraised at $1,500 per acre, City Manager Vicki Mayes said.

The NextLight plant, which will go by the name Boulder City Solar LLC, will be the largest of three solar plants in the city’s energy zone. After a proposed expansion, Sempra Energy will be able to produce 58 megawatts, and Acciona Energy has a 64-megawatt plant.

Jim Woodruff, vice president of regulatory and governmental affairs for NextLight, said Boulder City’s abundant sunshine, business environment and access to existing transmission lines makes it an attractive site for solar projects.

“The city set aside a good deal of acreage and provides a favorable business and permitting atmosphere,” Woodruff said. “It’s a great place to do a solar project and just a great place to do business.”

Councilwoman Linda Strickland and Councilman Travis Chandler said they were concerned that the contract did not take into account inflation during the next 40 years.

Under the terms of the contract, inflation can only be renegotiated at the time of the option renewals.

Strickland said that by her calculation, the city is shortchanged by $62 million.

“I’m afraid that by entering into something like this we’re going to look good for 10 years; we’re going to be able to meet our budgetary funds right now, but we are going to be selling our city short,” she said.

Chandler said the inflation factored in the deal was about half of the average 4 percent annual increase over the past 40 years. He still voted for the deal, but Strickland did not.

If the lease had been tied to inflation, then the price per acre would have been lower, said Mike Hatfield, NextLight’s director of development.

“It would have been a little bit lower than $2,200 per acre but still above the appraised value,” he said. “From our perspective, it would have been the same value package, the same economic value.”

The negotiations required some give and take, Mayor Roger Tobler said. While the city may not have received everything it wanted, it did get the solar plant with its lease payments in a competitive market, he said.

“I know we have an attractive area, but I don’t think we have an exclusive area that beats out every other area,” Tobler said.

The city also will receive two megawatts of power per year at a reduced commercial rate and the company is looking at selling the remaining power in California, elsewhere in Nevada and “a number of markets,” Hatfield said.

The city has two more proposals to build solar plants on another 2,000 acres of the dry lake bed in El Dorado Valley.

Green Tech Solar has proposed building a 200-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility and Martifier Renewables Solar Thermal LLC has proposed developing 2,100 acres on the dry lake bed.

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