LAS VEGAS -- Hundreds of Nevadans are at work installing 80,000 solar panels near Primm, Nevada. The new solar power plant is set to power thousands of Nevada homes.
The sound of power drills and hammers are rarely heard in southern Nevada since the economy soured and most construction came to a halt. But one can hear those sounds loud and clear at the Silver State North Solar project which will eventually produce enough electricity to power more than 8,000 Nevada homes.
Two-thirds of the 250 workers on the site are from Nevada's IBEW union halls. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar greeted the workers Tuesday and reminded them of the importance of this particular job.
"First Solar has won this race with the Chinese here and that's because they're able to manufacture the thin-film technology that they have here in a way that is cost competitive," Salazar said.
"It will be the largest solar photovoltaic project in Nevada by a factor of three," First Solar Vice President Frank Derosa said.
There are already plans for expansion that include designs to build a neighboring solar plant within a few years.
"Right now, 15 percent of our energy has to come from renewable's. That's the case for 2011 and 2012. That grows to 25 percent by 2025," said NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira.
"The Congressional delegation should embark on developing a long-term energy policy that supports this kind of energy because this is what will bring energy independence to the United States of America. We know we can do it; the question is whether Washington has the will to get it done," Salazar said.
Green energy is more expensive to produce because it doesn't cause pollution. As a result, the green energy charges on NV Energy bills will remain.
First Solar does receive a 30 percent federal investment tax credit until the end of 2016. It drops down to 10 percent after that. Senator Reid's office said the project was possible after the senator fast-tracked the use of federal BLM land for solar power. The plant will be running at the end of 2011.