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April 16, 2014

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Solar project could be start of diversified economy

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Map of Laughlin

Laughlin

1900 Cougar Dr., Laughlin

Laughlin might soon find itself at the center of Nevada’s economic recovery, as a Chinese power company is seeking approval to build a solar panel manufacturing plant, industrial park and solar array there.

Clark County commissioners will be asked Tuesday to initiate negotiations with ENN Mojave Energy Corp. to purchase 5,400 acres of county land near Laughlin, which is about 90 miles south of Las Vegas.

When completed, the factory and an area for an industrial park would sit on 300 to 400 acres about 12 miles south of Laughlin, east of Needles Highway and west of the Colorado River. The factory would create about 2,000 skilled manufacturing jobs, according to county documents.

The average annual pay for such jobs, according to the company, was $72,000 in 2007. The company, however, wants to build more than the factory. County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said that after the factory is complete, workers will spend the next two to three years building solar panels for a massive solar plant on 5,100 acres on the west side of Needles Highway.

“I am pushing this as fast and hard as I can push it,” said Sisolak, whose district includes Laughlin and most of southern Clark County. “This represents a lot of jobs. And it’s not just construction jobs. There are permanent jobs, which makes it especially attractive.”

Completion of all phases of the project, which includes an industrial park, would take four years and employ 4,000 construction workers.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $4 billion to $6 billion.

“We’ll finally be manufacturing something in this state,” Sisolak said. “This is hopefully the start of diversifying our economy, a goal the state, the county, everyone has sought for years.”

Construction of the 500,000- to 1 million-square-foot factory could begin this year or in early 2012. Manufacture of solar panels would begin in March 2013. The plant would produce from 2.7 million to 5.4 million solar panels a year.

The first phase of the solar farm would begin operating in March 2014, the second phase in March 2015 and the third in March 2016. A fourth phase is also possible, according to company documents.

Sisolak met with company officials a few weeks ago, where the parent company, ENN Group, was described as the largest energy company in China. Company documents say it employs more than 25,000 worldwide in more than 100 subsidiaries. In 2010, it had revenue of $3.7 billion and assets of $6.1 billion.

ENN chose Laughlin after surveying the Southwest and finding few other states with large swaths of land available for development, Sisolak said. The company wants to sell the energy generated by the project to California power companies.

Sisolak said the selection of Nevada was aided by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s April trip to China, where he met ENN officials. “Sen. Reid sent them to me and we went from there,” Sisolak said.

Reid’s involvement will also be crucial for obtaining a federal waiver needed for the development to happen — the 5,400 acres under scrutiny are part of 9,000 acres conveyed to Clark County by the Colorado River Commission in 2007. County documents say the 5,400 acres are encumbered by a patent restriction that limits development “which must be waived or modified by the federal government to allow the proposed (solar) development.”

A spokesman for Reid’s office could not immediately be reached. Laughlin, with a population of less than 10,000, is unincorporated and operates with a board that has power only to advise the County Commission. The town manager did not return a call to the Sun.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan and others will present ENN’s case to county commissioners next week.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Southern Nevada,” Bryan said Wednesday. “It combines the natural resources that we have together with a new manufacturing base that will enable us to diversify our economy.”

The 5,400 acres at issue are near the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. Though most of the 42,000-acre reservation is in Arizona, it spans the Colorado River, and 5,500 acres of it covers the southern tip of Clark County.

Before voting Tuesday, county commissioners will have to consider whether the land would be sold at fair market value or less. Nevada allows the sale of public land below fair market value if that is seen in the “best interest” of the public.

Sisolak said the entire project “is in the best interest of the public: It’s jobs and we need them.”

A real estate agent in Laughlin said land in the area considered for the solar array and factory sells for about $10,000 an acre. If Clark County got that price, it would reap about $54 million.

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  1. Sounds good but I'll believe it when I see it. Anyone else notice how many bureaucratic fingers are in the pie? Used to be, someone with an idea put it to work. Not so much anymore. There are so many rules, regulations and so much red tape involved today, it's darn near impossible to get anything started without going hat-in-hand to bureaucratic drones like Harry the Red. Yeah, Harry the Red is all smiley-faced in public, but behind the scenes, he's a monster drunk with power.

  2. To Blister8: I'm not sure what you mean about Rory Reid getting to vote. He can't vote on this matter, though. He has not been a Clark County commissioner since January.

  3. Hope this really happens. The perfect industry for Nevada and a lot of good paying jobs.

    Funny some of you yelling "The Chinese are coming!" You better be scared.

    You yelled when the jobs went to China now you are complaining because China is bringing the jobs back here.

    Guess what, they have the money to do it. Industry here is not doing it. If you want jobs you let the people with the money build.

  4. Although on the surface, this appears to be a wonderful and fabulous boom for Americans and Nevadans, it also raises some important questions about:
    1-transparency in the deal process
    2-waiving patent land laws for some opens the doors for abuse
    3-How much AMERICAN LAND IN THE USA does the Chinese currently own,and where will this project place it?
    4-Using American materials and supplies to support our ailing American economy, will that be a part of the contract?
    5-Hiring LEGAL AMERICAN CITIZENS throughout the building and actual staffing of the plant, is that in the contract? or is it a slight percentage?
    6-How will this affect the housing development that is SUSTAINABLE in a desert due to this project in Laughlin and neighboring communities?
    7-Who will benefit from this solar plant industry and how?

    Most people are not knowledgable about chemistry and the use of industrial chemicals. Some of the chemicals and materials used in manufacturing, can be utilized into explosives or weapons. Enough said here.

    With so much going on in the world, this might be a case of a Chinese Trojan Horse entering another state, positioning itself in manufacturing and with the capacity to make weapons on American soil to potentially use against US; they already are building 50 square mile industrial/manufacturing complexes throughout the USA, Canada, and Mexico, that should raise some suspicion and flags(and I really hate to sound or appear negative about such a possibly great project). In most situations, I wholeheartedly support the solar, wind, geothermal, trash to energy industries and their development here in the USA AND NEVADA.

    There are numerous stories, and it takes some time to sort them, but here's a start:
    link:http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/china-wants-to-construct-a-50-square-mile-self-sustaining-city-south-of-boise-idaho/comment-page-2
    link:http://bunkerville.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/china-wants-to-construct-a-50-square-mile-self-sustaining-city-south-of-boise-idaho/
    Read more: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/12/31...

    You can do some research and make your opinions; the question lies anymore, do Americans here on our own soil, have any voice in the situation?

    We need to not only look to the present situation, but to the future: not only in terms of "economic diversification" but in terms of NATIONAL SECURITY. Nevada has already proven itself to be ethically devoid (just look at Nevada politics and the Good ol'Boy System here) and its citizens uninvolved and either illiterate or uncaring to learn. That makes fertile ground to be EXPLOITED, and that is unacceptable. Our elected leaders need to provide answers to these questions, please, before advancing forward and possibly putting our citizens in jeopardy. Thank you.

  5. One more thing:
    How will they pay TAX REVENUES?

    Will this be another case of us paying them to be here? USA Taypayers will foot the bill?

    What about it?

    Time to call some elected LAWMAKERS and see where they stand, since they have been UNWILLING to meaningfully address TAX RESTRUCTURING AND REFORM of Nevada's 100+ year old laws!

  6. Don't worry people, the hippies at The Center For Biological Diversity (which is actually a law firm) will find some type of flower or insect and claim it to be an endangered species. Then the courts will get involved and the project will be put on hold for years.

  7. I'm so tired of reading about this "Pie in the sky" retoric. It's about time someone started to 'walk the walk'.

  8. This is the first step in starting to think worldly instead of American. This is the way it is now and if people do not learn this new way, they will not grow into a new life and be poor and have their children poor. The American 50's is dead and many want to go back or back to the 1800's where women had no choices and and had slaves. Although the tea party may want that, it's not going to happen. The republican party is forcing down our thoats fear and hate; but, that's not going to happen either. Solar energy is the best option we have. Let's do it. At least, we are doing something here to crate jobs for us because I don't see the hospitality industry moveing in a great direction to hire us all back. If the Chinese want to build it with their money(which came from us), then let them. We will be working and we will learn on the job new ideas and have money in our pockets. In time, we can learn even better ideas. Senator Reid is right in doing this. No matter how much people hate him, at least he putting forth something. Where are the others? I see them nowhere.
    Zappos is good too. It helps. Let's see the positive and maybe more will come.

  9. Star,

    China learned a long time ago that it is not in their best interest to kick off a war with us. They can beat us in dirt economically, so why spoil those riches to enter a d*ck measuring contest?

    This is a win for us. Private industry here in the U.S. won't make the investments needed to do something like this, so I welcome foreign companies that bring jobs to our working class. Whether or not this operation is staffed by "illegals" is yet to be seen, so we shouldn't jump the gun on that one.

    Anything outside of the service industry is badly needed here. Let's support this thing, and see where it takes us. What do we stand to lose?

  10. pmmart,

    Thanks a lot. I just spit water on my nice clean shirt.

  11. Strykertyme, thanks for the analogy, truly enjoyed it. However, the point I was driving at, was that we (all American agencies involved) need to think this through as we proceed, as others, besides myself, had some UNANSWERED questions about this deal.

    Lord knows, I love and encourage all things solar, wind, geothermal, and trash to energy, besides other alternative energy producers.

    And YES, anything outside the hospitality and mining industries, would greatly enhance the quality of life for not only Nevadans, but Americans.

    There is a real problem with how the labor situation will be addressed by the Chinese. They might not hire that many Americans, but bring in their own people from China. You are concerned, somewhat, as well, stating,

    " I welcome foreign companies that bring jobs to our working class. Whether or not this operation is staffed by "illegals" is yet to be seen."

    If all the questions have positive answers, then let's crack out the champagne and celebrate!

  12. It is agreed that the Chinese have to be watched. We have to make sure that they do right by us and they pay not us. It's bad enough we gave them our jobs and money through the years. Now they want to spend on us. Fine; as long as they hire us, and follow our laws in safety and benefits. No barb wire for us. Their are stipulations with the land they are working on here. And o yes; the money stays here and is spent here. They want a positive cash flow. Come here, stay here, and keep as much money as possible here. I am willing to work with them. They should work with us. Let's learn from them. Then let's do it for us.