Solar Energy Plant Starts Harvesting the Sun - 8 News NOW

Solar Energy Plant Starts Harvesting the Sun

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BOULDER CITY, Nev. -- With sunny skies and an easy way to get connected to the electrical grid, Nevada is becoming a hub for solar energy.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said he believes Nevada has a bright future in creating clean electricity in the Eldorado Valley.

Eleven miles from Railroad Pass in Boulder City, toward Searchlight on US 95, solar panels are shining strong, helping power tens of thousands of homes.

Sempa U.S. Gas & Power dedicated the 92-Megawatt first phase of its Copper Mountain Solar 2 facility, one of the largest photovoltaic solar facilities in North America.

"There is incredible potential in the Eldorado Valley," said John Sowers, vice president of operations for Sempra. "First of all, you have an absolutely amazing solar resource."

The surge in solar is giving the public a refresher in science, learning about direct current and alternating current.

"Those panels, we collect the (direct current) from them," said Kevin Gillespie, director of plant operations for Sempra. "Then we invert it to AC (alternating current) power, which allows us to step it up and transmit it up to the grid for the western United States."

When the sun shines and it reflects off a solar panel, it makes energy. But right now it takes a lot of panels to create power. Sempra has 2.3 million panels in the Eldorado Valley and that number is going to keep on growing.

Sandoval has given the green light for solar.

"I'm just really proud as a Nevadan today," he said.

But the industry has its skeptics. In his latest budget plan, former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan referred to a solar plant near Tonapah, Nev., as "ill-fated," a plant that is doing fine.

"We have some of the greatest solar resources, not only in the nation, but the world," Sandoval said. "You got to take it on a case-by-case basis. It's a positive thing for Nevada. It's jobs. It makes us the solar hub of the world."

On Friday, Sempra announced plans to start construction of Copper Mountain Solar 3, expected to be finished in 2015, generating enough power for another 80,000 homes.

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