Nevada must pursue excellence in 2012

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In just a few days, 2011 will officially end. On behalf of the state of Nevada, I must say: good riddance.

The year was quite a turbulent one around the world, bringing everything from large-scale revolutions and the overthrow of governments in places like Egypt and Libya and the recent death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

On a smaller scale, 2011 has been one of the most intense I have endured in all my time living in Reno. The year has been peppered with the terrible news of crimes such as the Sept. 6 shooting at the Carson City IHOP, natural disasters such as the mid-November Caughlin fire, human tragedies such as the Sept. 16 plane crash at the National Championship Air Races, and, understandably, a feeling of moroseness due to the mortgage crisis and the high jobless numbers.

But, as is customary, we will start again with a blank slate as we head into 2012.

I have taken it upon myself to devise a New Year’s resolution for the state of Nevada: This year, we will make national news for our roaring comeback from the depths of depression and our tremendous progress toward becoming a more economically prosperous state, rather than for our chronic bad luck. In 2012, we will not make the mistake so many other states have made by focusing on unnecessary but controversial legislation—outlawing abortion or attempting to eradicate undocumented immigrants from the state, for example—and instead we’ll expend our energy on work that is more fruitful and beneficial for the state and its citizens. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as it were.

Nevada has a lot of potential for a more positive future, if we could just bring ourselves to think about some of it. One thing I’ve always found exciting about Nevada’s wide open spaces and expansive desert land is its capacity to become a Mecca for renewable energy.

Nevada has already made a name for itself in the realm of green energy. As of 2007, Nevada was one of five U.S. states that generated geothermal electric power, in addition to Alaska, California, Hawaii and Utah. Moreover, North America’s largest photovoltaic power plant is the Copper Mountain Solar Facility, conveniently located in Boulder City. Nevada is actually an ideal location for solar power plants because the availability of sunlight matches well with the demand for cooling power in the southwestern United States.

In late September, the U.S. Department of Energy finalized a $737 million loan to Tonopah Solar Energy to help develop a new solar energy project—the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project—which will not only generate renewable power for the state, it will also fund about 645 jobs for Nevadans. The project will use molten salt as its primary heat transfer and storage medium, making it the first of its kind in the United States. The facility could produce enough energy to power more than 43,000 homes.

If we could transform this progress into a full-on renewable energy revolution, there’d be no stopping us.

It seems ideal that Nevada could be capable of fostering an industry that is both beneficial to its own economy and to the environment. We couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

So, let’s make it happen and ensure that 2012 is the year Nevada overcomes its hardships, has a second wind and shows the whole country what an excellent state we can be.