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October 24, 2014

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Moapa Paiutes poised to construct first large-scale solar plant

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Steve Marcus

Eric Lee, acting chairman from the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, speaks during a news conference at the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 at the Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. The Moapa Band of Paiutes announced they will begin construction on a large-scale photovoltaic facility on Moapa River Indian Reservation land northeast of Las Vegas.

Moapa Paiutes Announce Large-Scale Solar Facility

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, center, (D-NV) speaks during a news conference at the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 at the Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. The Moapa Band of Paiutes announced they will begin construction on a large-scale photovoltaic facility on Moapa River Indian Reservation land northeast of Las Vegas. Behind Reid are Gerrit Nicholas, managing partner of K Road Power, and Eric Lee, acting chairman from the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians. Launch slideshow »

Southern Nevada may soon host the nation’s first large-scale solar project on tribal land, said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes appear poised to begin construction on up to 350 megawatts of solar power generation on Moapa River Indian Reservation land northeast of Las Vegas. Jewell and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., applauded the project at the National Clean Energy Summit at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday.

“I want to congratulate and applaud the Moapa Band of Paiutes,” Jewell said. “Nevada is such a leader in so many ways and certainly at the epicenter of challenges around climate and water and also on the forefront in so many areas on renewable energy development.”

Reid said the project will bring hundreds of construction jobs to the region and will provide the tribe long-term, sustainable economic development.

“Native Americans, not only those in Moapa but all over the country, see this as a way to go forward,” Reid said.

The tribe has signed a contract to sell the power to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The company managing the project, K Road Power, anticipates the project bringing jobs to the tribe. The project has been in the pipeline since 2011 and construction may begin in a few weeks.

A representative from the Moapa Band of Paiutes said the tribe looks forward to building more projects like this.

“Who would have thought the Moapa Band of Paiutes would be supplying power to LA?” said Eric Lee, acting chairman from the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

The tribe has involved itself in energy policy matters for years and has fought NV Energy to close the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant. The tribe has filed several lawsuits against the utility, arguing that the plant has caused widespread health and environmental problems.

Now, three-quarters of the coal plant must be closed by the end of 2014 after the Nevada Legislature passed a law this year ordering NV Energy to exit the coal market.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes filed a lawsuit with the Sierra Club last week saying that NV Energy should be required to clean up contaminated lands and waters surrounding the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant.

While Reid touted the renewable energy project and has supported the tribe’s efforts to close the coal plant, he did not endorse this particular lawsuit.

“Being a lawyer, I think it’s best I stay out of it,” he said.

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