Nevada Town Rakes in Money, Thanks to Solar

Boulder City, Nevada, home of the Hoover Dam, is fast becoming an epicenter of utilty-scale solar plants, and is benefiting mightily from it financially.

The city had the foresight to set aside land for solar plants and as a result will rake in lease payments for decades to come. Residents had the same foresight with their near-unanimous support for the projects.

Since they set aside 8000 acres as an "energy zone," it’s become home to the nation’s largest solar PV plant, the 58 megawatt (MW) Copper Mountain Solar 1, owned by Sempra U.S. Gas & Power.

Online since March 2011, Copper Mountain will add another 92 MW by January 2013, and another 58 MW by 2015 on its 1100 acres. Sempra also has the 10 MW El Dorado Solar plant there.

Acciona’s Nevada Solar 1 is there too – a 65 MW concentrating solar plant on 400 acres that’s been operating since 2007.

Both companies plan to expand significantly and will be joined by others to eventually cover the entire energy zone. There are plans for about 1400 MW of solar to be built there, supplying energy to 420,000 homes.

Raking in the Cash

Mayor Roger Tobler says the projects could eliminate the city’s debt and stabilize its revenue stream far into the future, reports Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Unlike other cities in Nevada, Boulder City has been able to avoid laying off employees and other drastic spending cuts because it will collect about $12 million a year in lease payments from the two projects it’s approved thus far.

Besides the lease payments, the city requires solar developers to pay millions of dollars in upfront payments that cover the 2-4 year construction phase.

In total, the city stands to collect over $480 million in rent through the life of the contracts, increasing its annual revenue by almost 50%. Leases average 40-50 years.

Sempra also gave Boulder City $500,000 to install any kind of renewable energy on its buildings.

On top of that, the county will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from property taxes, and Boulder City will receive some of that revenue too.

And even on top of that, the solar plants are creating many hundreds of renewable energy jobs.

What attracts so many solar developers there? There’s plenty of sunlight, land and access to transmission lines. And they avoid the lengthy, expensive approval process required to build on public land.

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