For the second time in two months, the Public Utilities Commission has rejected NV Energy’s proposal to build the Moapa Solar Energy Center on land it would lease from the tribe about an hour north of Las Vegas. Following the first rejection on October 27, the power company retooled its plan to scale back both the output, from 200 megawatts to 175, and the cost, capping the construction price at $383.3 million and the energy cost at $92 per kilowatt hour.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes was happy; they’d get a solar array on tribal land that was previously polluted by the adjacent Reid Gardner coal-fired plant (in fact, the solar proposal is part of NV Energy’s promise to the state that it would convert from coal to renewable energy within three years). Labor was happy; the deal includes an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. U.S. Senator Harry Reid was happy; the proposal promised to create as many as 1,000 jobs for his constituents. And environmental groups are happy, for obvious reasons.
But the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Southern Nevada Hotel Group, which objected to the plan, weren’t happy. They argued that a competitive bid process would yield a better deal for consumers than the one proposed.
PUC spokesman Peter Kostes said, “The revised plan would have required a deviation from a regulation that requires a competitive bid process. There wasn’t sufficient information on record to deviate from that requirement.”
NV Energy succeeded in having this requirement waived for its proposal to put a solar facility at Nellis Air Force Base, but, Kostes said, that project had broad support and no opposition.
“They want something current to compare the price tag of the Moapa project to,” said Barbara Boyle, the Sierra Club senior campaign representative who has been working on the situation with the Moapa Band of Paiutes since 2007. “It’s one more hurdle for the project, which is disappointing, to say the least. But we are hopeful NV Energy will stay committed and see the project through.”
NV Energy didn’t respond to requests for an interview.
Kostes said the Moapa project is not necessarily dead — NV Energy could either amend the project again to show why it makes sense to deviate from the RFP process, or complete the RFP process.
Everything else in the original plan was accepted, including shutting down Reid Gardner in phases, acquiring two natural gas plants and building the Nellis solar array.