Saturday, May 15, 2010 | 7:32 p.m.
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A solar power company plans to build a manufacturing plant in the Las Vegas area, creating about 300 jobs in what officials say is an emerging industry for Nevada.
The company, Amonix, announced the new facility at a press conference Saturday where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid showed off a solar power generating plant built by Amonix at a Southern Nevada Water Authority facility.
The location of the manufacturing facility has not been announced. Amonix CEO Brian Robertson said the company is considering three sites and expects to make a decision in the next few weeks.
Once the site is selected, construction will begin immediately and the facility should be operational by the end of the year, Robertson said.
The company already has facilities in Southern California but chose to expand in Southern Nevada.
“Nevada is a friendly place to do business. It’s less expensive than California,” Robertson said.
The company is also getting a $5.9 million tax credit as from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
Reid said the new facility will help to diversify Nevada’s economy.
“We know that we can’t depend forever on the gambling industry, leisure-time business, although it’s going to continue to thrive and do well,” he said. “Mining is good, but the one thing we haven’t looked to in the past is green energy. We’ve got a lot of it here and we’re going to continue to develop that.”
“I’d like to have tens of thousands of people working on these jobs, but that’s coming,” Reid said. “I think the future is so bright for what we can do in Nevada with renewable energy.”
The regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jared Blumenfeld, said Nevada will play a key role as the nation moves toward using more sustainable energy.
“Many people think about solar power, they think about what it can look like on their rooftop, but very few understand that the future of solar power and renewable energy largely is going to be in this state and in Arizona,” Blumenfeld said. “When you think about the sunshine, this is where it is. These kinds of projects show us what can be done on a utilities scale. The amount of power here is really starting to be significant.”
The solar plant unveiled Saturday is part of the water authority’s River Mountains Water Treatment Facility in Henderson. Its six concentrated photovoltaic panels are capable of producing 308 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power 50 medium-sized homes for a year, and unlike traditional solar power plants, they use no water.
“Nothing is more connected than water and power,” said water authority General Manager Pat Mulroy. “The two are inseparable. You need water to generate electricity, except for these lovelies behind me, and you need energy in order to move and treat drinking water.”
Mulroy said the water authority is the largest user of power in the Las Vegas Valley.
The water authority’s plant is a model for others to follow, Blumenfeld said.
“A huge amount of energy across the United States goes into moving water from one place to another and to cleaning the water at the end of the day,” he said. “These kinds of solutions need to be done everywhere. And in order to do them everywhere, you need to show they can be done one place well.”
Gary Wood, the authority’s renewable energy program manager, said the solar plant is part of the organization’s effort to diversify its power sources, but it is also a research and development project.
The authority has been working closely with Amonix and UNLV to learn as much as possible about solar power while installing the plant.
The cost of the plant was $2.1 million. It includes about $250,000 worth of infrastructure improvements that can support more solar panels if the authority wants to expand the plant in the future, Wood said.
The solar power plant is different than many others in that it uses lenses to magnify the sun’s rays before capturing the power.
The panels also move to follow the sun throughout the day and have less of an impact on the desert.
The system is more efficient and less expensive than traditional photovoltaic panels, Amonix founder Vahan Garboushian said.
“I’m convinced it’s going to be, in the next five to ten years, the leading and dominate technology in large-scale solar electric generation,” he said.