Solar Power Brightens the Lives of VEA Members
Valley Electric Association’s 15-megawatt Community Solar Project went online in 2017, serving member-consumers with solar power at no additional cost.
The ribbon-cutting for what was at the time the largest community solar project in the country was Sept. 28, 2016.
The plant is situated on 80 acres and produces enough power for 2,500 houses at full output.
VEA partnered with Bombard Renewable Energy of Las Vegas. To minimize effects on environmentally sensitive plants and animals in the area, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife assisted during construction.
Desert tortoise can enter and exit the solar site through specially build passageways like this.
Bombard operates the plant, which was built on land owned by VEA. JBA Consulting Engineers of Las Vegas completed electrical engineering for the project.
The output from the project will be available only to VEA members and at a price lower than current electric rates, allowing consumers to experience the benefits of renewable energy without significant investments or long-term leases.
The low-maintenance nature of the solar panels is one reason the project has been able to keep its environmental footprint small.
During planning and construction, the site was found to be a habitat for the Mojave Desert tortoise. The project included creating a temporary habitat for the tortoise and creating pathways for the animal in the fencing that surrounds the power plant.
In another environmentally friendly move, the photovoltaic panels were built to follow the natural undulations of the land on which they are built, allowing the vegetation to return to its natural state.
To minimize environmental effects, the site is designed so equipment requiring maintenance is located along the road that cuts through the center of the land on which the plant is built.
The Community Solar Project is the second utility-scale solar project to be built in Nye County, the first being Copper Dunes near Tonopah.
- Broke ground January 2016
- Project complete and online in March 2017
- Largest community solar project in operation in the U.S.
- All power is locally used by VEA members
- VEA is developing a subscription program, offering members a discount from the retail rate
- What is a community solar project? Community solar lets renters, home-owners and community businesses share
renewable energy from a utility scale solar generation plant at a lower rate without the investment, acquisition,
installation, maintenance and operation of solar panels on their personal property.
- Valley Electric Association owns the land, Bombard constructed the project
- Took advantage of Nevada’s state renewable energy tax abatement
- Built with all Nevada labor
- 51,480 panels
- 15 megawatts peak output
CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
- Only known solar site built with minimal impact to surrounding environment
- Habitat conservation plan with US Fish and Wildlife
- Designed with consideration for the protection of the Mojave Desert Tortoise, which is listed as threatened under the
FEDERAL ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
- University of Nevada Las Vegas monitoring effects of modified construction and design on plants and soil for 3 years
- HDR monitoring avian species and tortoises
- Raised panel heights to allow vegetation growth
- Half of site’s panel rows are further apart to be mindful of birds and vegetation
- Portion of site left undeveloped for drainage wash
- Tortoise holes in fencing
- Perimeter lighting independently solar powered
- Site not graded, leaving root system intact for vegetation coverage
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
- 2017 Solar Power World Editor’s Choice Award
- Bombard 2017 Environmental Integrity Award
- 2017 Las Vegas Business Press Innovation Award