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August 20, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Big plans for Laughlin solar plant are bogged down

Image

Justin Bowen

Laughlin and Bullhead City, Ariz., as seen in 2011.

Back in June, some 40 degrees Fahrenheit ago, county commissioners swooned with excitement over the possibility of a Chinese solar power conglomerate investing $6 billion in solar arrays and industrial facilities near Laughlin.

Plans are for ENN Mojave Energy Corp. to build the megadevelopment on 9,000 acres of land it would buy from Clark County. Over several years of investment and growth, the development is projected to create 2,000 permanent, high-paying jobs.

So what’s going on with the project? Has the land been purchased yet?

The company wanted to begin construction of a plant to build solar cells this year or early next year, but the land deal still isn’t done. Getting a deal is taking longer than expected, said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whose district includes the land.

“Unfortunately, in a development this large and complex, you get many attorneys on each side and they parse every single sentence,” Sisolak said. “While it’s painful sitting through those meetings, and I’ve sat through several, we’re making progress.”

Then after the land is purchased, do the shovels hit the ground and the solar panel-development plant get built?

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

That would be nice. But there are big obstacles.

Sisolak says it could be 18 months before construction begins.

What obstacles?

After the county and ENN seal a land-purchase deal, the county is essentially done with the project. Then it comes down to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader.

Reid is a key player, Sisolak said, because he can help facilitate talks between ENN and California energy companies. That is important because ENN will not build the plant, even if it owns the land, unless it has a customer willing to purchase the electricity the project will generate.

“He’s working on it,” the commissioner said of Reid. “He opens doors.”

Any idea about the progress on agreements between ENN and California utilities?

Reid could not be reached for comment. But while the senator is in the best position to “open doors,” his aims don’t appear to square with those of California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown has said he’d like California to become an exporter of energy, not an importer. Then again, Brown also created a greater demand for renewable energy in California by signing into law a mandate that state utilities get 33 percent of their power from renewable sources. That’s an increase from 20 percent.

Nevada lawmakers in 2009 approved a 25 percent mandate for the Silver State, which takes effect in 2025.

The longer it takes to get a power-purchase agreement, the more time it gives California companies to develop renewable energy plants, making it more difficult for ENN to strike a deal.

So we shouldn’t be moving down to Laughlin and lining up for a new job just yet?

Not just yet.

•••

It’s a short agenda for Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, but one item may get some attention.

Which one is that?

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani’s proposal to amend the county’s ethics code. She wants to prohibit commissioners from consulting or lobbying while they serve on the board. Contrary to what the Sun reported last week, Tuesday will bring more than simply a reading of the amendment into the record. Commissioners may debate and vote on it during the meeting.

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  1. Comment removed by moderator. Same (or similar) comment posted on multiple stories.

  2. This is a product of insane regulations and laws designed to prevent any company from building a factory here. While the concept of solar power is laudable, it is not ready for prime time yet. Solar cell panels built here are just too expensive because of a number of factors and government is a big reason for the increased costs. If this plant is built - and I sincerely doubt it will be, It most likely will not see a single solar panel built, let alone sold. The Chinese really do not need this and will most likely walk away.

    The county commissars need to be replaced - ALL OF THEM. They are the biggest impediment to job growth in the county.

  3. If they ever get a land deal done then it will be a slew of environmental impact studies and more bureaucratic studies and applications and lawyers.. In China they just pay off some one and build it already! Plus their government wants factories and business because they employ people so they are not so hung up on all the red tape so things get done quicker. I would be surprised if the Chinese stick around for this deal.

  4. And we sit her wondering why Nevada can't diversify its economy. Or the two states can't build a decent highway system between them or Rail System, or Power Grid, Or Health Care System or Anything, ever.

  5. Mr. Wright,

    Can you please explain to me how any country commissioners are impeding job growth in Clark County?

    Would like factual examples please. Not just vague opinions.

  6. One thing is clear, timing is EVERYTHING.

    It is some kind of conincidence with the People of Laughlin moving to incorporate so THEY have a say in their local government and taxation (versus the County dictating this) and the incredibly slow legal wrestling on land contracts. Good Lord!

    This has now turned into a shell game on WHO is in control and WHO benefits financially.

    The ENN Solar Project would bring a welcome change to not only Laughlin's local economy, but Nevada's and Clark County's tax revenues. Now it is about WHO gets what. Stay strong ENN, there is a real need for green power and economic diversification. The citizens of Nevada just might need to rally at these meetings to get the point across to these politicians and corrupt agencies!