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  • Writer's pictureTiana Starks

Las Vegas shines as a model for solar power

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

For Marcia Bollea, switching to solar energy was a dream come true. A lifelong environmentalist, she had hardly dared hope she would ever see solar panels become affordable for home use. And she’d never imagined it would happen for her in Las Vegas, of all places.

“Social services and environmental issues – those kinds of things weren’t really on the radar when I first moved here,” says Ms. Bollea, a retired nurse who left California for Las Vegas with her son in 1986. “I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when [solar] finally became available to me.”

Bollea’s experience is a small but potent testament to how much the city – and the state of Nevada – has changed. Though gambling and hospitality still make up the heart of Nevadan industry, the past decade has also seen the technological and clean energy revolutions take root in the state. Just outside of Reno sits the most striking symbol of this transformation: the Tesla Gigafactory, a 5-million-square-foot manufacturing facility that opened in 2016 and is meant to supply the company with the lithium-ion batteries it needs to produce electric vehicles.

But in sunny southern Nevada, the focal point of change is solar energy. Last year Acciona, a global infrastructure and renewable energy company, unveiled a 400-acre, 64-megawatt solar power plant in Boulder City, just south of Las Vegas. The third-largest such plant in the world, the facility can power more than 14,000 homes a year – and helped the Las Vegas city government fulfill its promise to power all its municipal and public buildings entirely with renewable energy. The city has since been named among the nation’s top 10 metros leading the way on solar power.

In June, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) signed nine of 11 clean energy bills passed by the state Legislature. Among them is a measure that restores net metering in Nevada, an issue that was the center of an 18-month tug-of-war between the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUCN) and clean-energy advocates.

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