The American Southwest has some of the best solar resources in the world. Nevada, with abundant land and sunshine is becoming a hot bed for the solar industry. The result is green jobs and billions of investment dollars that are boosting this desert economy.
Solar Panel Manufacturing
The opening of Ausra’s solar thermal power factory a few months ago in Las Vegas is a prime example. As the largest plant of its kind in the world, it employs 50 factory workers. At full capacity, the plant can generate 700 MW of solar panels, which could produce enough power for 500,000 homes. This quantity of panels would create an estimated 1,400 solar plant construction jobs.
The factory will produce giant mirrors and absorber tubes that are used for solar power plants. This technology uses the sun to generate heat and spin turbines, thus creating electricity. The giant mirrors follow the sun and reflect it onto fixed absorber tubes that are mounted above.
“Nevada is poised to be a leader in the clean energy revolution,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “This facility will help position our state as the premiere place to invest in these new technologies. As the factory expands operations and we continue to invest in clean energy, we’ll create thousands of good-paying jobs and keep our outdoors pristine for future generations.”
Solar Power Plants
Solar projects totaling more than 10,000 MW have land requests from the Bureau of Land Management in Southern Nevada. If constructed, these solar plants would bring over $40 billion of investment to Nevada.
Power plants benefit the economy in the short-term by creating large quantities of construction jobs. In the long-term, they create plant operations jobs, tax revenue, raise property values, and generate income through land leases. A recent example is Acciona’s Nevada Solar One, located in Boulder City, NV.
As the third largest solar concentrated plant in the world, its maximum output is 75 MW of electricity. It generates enough power for 15,000 homes annually and had a cost of $260 million. Operating since June, 2007, there are 300 acres of solar fields. The plant will produce peak power, with nearly zero carbon emissions and created approximately 28 operations related jobs.
Solar Tax Credits
The federal government recently extended the 30% solar tax credit for eight more years. This is vital to the solar industry as it makes projects for more cost effective. Numerous electric purchase agreements have been signed, but depended on the extension of this tax credit.
Photo: Ausra’s facility in New South Wales, Australia. Courtesy Ausra.