LAS VEGAS — The largest solar power plant on tribal lands in the United States is expected to go online in southern Nevada's desert in 2016 under a new 25-year, $1.6 billion deal approved by Los Angeles city council to buy solar power produced on the Moapa River Indian Reservation.
The 250-megawatt solar farm 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas will generate enough electricity for 118,000 homes more than 280 miles away in Los Angeles.
William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, said some 910,000 photovoltaic panels will be built on 2,000 acres on the 71,680-acre reservation.
"I just can't believe that we're actually going to have something like this on the reservation," Anderson told the Las Vegas Review Journal after the council unanimously decided to purchase power from developer K Road Moapa Solar LLC in conjunction with the tribe.
"We are going to have a solar farm and jobs for our people," he said about the 320 members of the Moapa band.
The first commercial-grade solar energy project on tribal land in the country will be across from the tribe's Moapa Travel Plaza truck stop, west of the Valley of Fire State Park exit off U.S. Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas.
Officials expect it will create 15 to 20 permanent jobs and up to 400 at the peak of construction.
Plans call for a transmission line to deliver some solar power to the truck stop. Members of the Moapa band will be employed to shuttle workers to the project site and provide environmental monitoring to ensure habitat for federally protected desert tortoises is maintained.
"This is a perfect match," legal tribal administrator Yvette Chevalier said. "I think it's going to pave the way for further economic development."
The U.S. Interior Department approved the project in June under a broad effort to bring solar, wind and geothermal projects to public lands.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a chief opponent of coal plants, praised the public-private-tribal partnership as a "powerful example" of how clean energy can boost Nevada's economy.
"Unlike the old, dirty technologies used at the nearby Reid Gardner coal plant, this new solar project will not emit any hazardous emissions, wastes, or carbon pollution," he said.
Under California's renewable energy law, the Department of Water and Power must generate 25 percent of its power from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources by 2016, and 33 percent by 2020. The Department of Water and Power currently relies on renewable energy sources for more than 17 percent of its power.
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