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Renewable Energy

First Utility-Scale Project on Tribal Lands to Power 100,000 Homes

By Dan Whitten

First Solar held a commissioning event last week on a 250-megawatt solar facility on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. This is the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.


Morgan Stanley put together this cool video on the project as part of their series on sustainable solutions called Capital Creates Change and we wanted to share it with you. It highlights the economic opportunity, the jobs and the clean power that utility scale developers are bringing to Indian Country and to Southern Nevada.

Late last year, I was lucky enough to attend a ribbon cutting at NextEra Energy's Silver State South project, a 250-megawatt project developed and built by First Solar at the southern tip of Nevada, on the California border line. Eight years ago, when developers began surveying the Silver State South site, they couldn't have known what the world or even that little corner of the Nevada and California border would look like in terms of solar adoption. But they did know major change was afoot.

Back then, solar accounted for one hundredth of one percent of the nation's power generation and it was considered by some to be the costliest form of electricity.

In hindsight, the project goes a long way toward explaining the phenomena we are seeing in solar energy today. First off, the region now boasts 1,200 megawatts of solar electricity, which is the size of two big coal plants and no emissions, a fact that helps explain why our greenhouse gas emissions as a nation are lower than they have been in more than two decades.

The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project continues a trend in Nevada that has seen utility scale grow by leaps and bounds and with it has come thousands of jobs. Economies of scale evident from solar adoption help explain why the cost of solar has dropped by about 70 percent in the last eight years.

And while the utility scale revolution is taking hold in the West, policies governing rooftop solar in Nevada have crippled that segment of our industry and the many benefits that a healthy distributed generation market can provide for our electrical grid. The model is in place for many thousands of megawatts of clean electricity in the West and the hundreds and thousands of jobs that come with it.

The key is making sure there is a welcoming policy environment for continued growth of large scale solar, with triggers that can help distributed solar take pressure off the grid.

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