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Clean energy bill could be a boon for Laughlin: Southlands seen as prime location for solar fields; abandoned ordnance could delay development

May 1, 2019

LAUGHLIN — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a clean energy bill known as Senate Bill 358 on Earth Day last week.

The bill raises Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standards to 50% by 2030, meaning at least half the state’s energy needs to come from renewable sources like wind, solar or hydropower.

Former Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar bill in 2017, which would have raised RPS to 40% in the same span of time.

SB 358 replaces the current plan instated in 2011, which required 25% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.

The clean energy bill Sisolak signed doubles that amount in almost the identical amount of time.

By next year, the RPS is raised to 22% and gradually increases from there until reaching 50% by the 2030 deadline.

“The new legislation will bode well for Laughlin in the future development of our solar fields in the Southlands,” Laughlin Town Manager Brian Paulson said. “Making Laughlin a major renewable energy source for Nevada.”

However, solar field development in Laughlin has yet to happen despite efforts.

Four years ago, NextEra Energy Resources outbid First Solar, Inc. for development of two parcels of land in the Southlands. NextEra had three years to determine whether construction of the solar plant was viable or not. If so, there was an option to lease the land from Clark County for another 20 years.

NextEra never built or renewed the lease.

“In my opinion, there is no doubt the Laughlin area will be an important rein to help support this new initiative signed by Governor Sisolak,” Clark County Economic Development Liaison Philip Klevorick said. “Laughlin has a very good solar land base which many companies have looked at and continue to evaluate.”

He also said the region holds vast potential for renewable development because of the existing power grid, including high voltage transportation, and sub-stations.

The most recent company interested in the Southlands is 8minutenergy Renewables, the largest independent solar power developer in the country.

Senior Director of Development Jason Moretz, from 8minute, spoke to the Laughlin Town Advisory Board back on Jan. 15. He gave a brief overview of the company and the Arida Solar Project it would like to bring to the area.

However, as the land is back under the control of Clark County, it has to go through a public release in order to be auctioned again for a solar lease. But it’s not that easy.

“We have been notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that unexploded military munitions from previous military activities may be present on and near this 9,000 acres of land,” said Erick Papa, Clark County director of public communications.

The land was used during three different time periods for military purposes. The first was in the 1800s when it was used for the protecting settlers migrating west. It was used again during World War II from 1942 to 1944, as part of the California Arizona Maneuver Area. It also was used during Operation Desert Strike for two weeks in 1964.

Papa said it is possible that there may be munitions still present on the land from past military actions.

“Therefore, we do not anticipate putting this land out for auction until the Army Corps has investigated this matter more fully and can assure us that no live munitions are still there,” he said. “We are waiting on the corps to get back to us on a possible time frame for this investigation to occur.”

President of Bilbray Industries Robert Bilbray said this could go on forever as the corps notified Clark County last September about potential unexploded munitions.

However, Klevorick remains hopeful that SB 358 does spur additional economic benefits to Clark County and Laughlin, encouraging renewable energy projects that will create jobs and additional tax revenue.