Solar goes public

Green jobs can’t come fast enough for many Nevada residents—including those for whom Sharron Angle’s “Green Jobs: SCAM” campaign ad may have resonated. Two examples of renewable energy’s potential to produce both power and jobs in the state were on display recently.

In October, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the first large-scale solar energy project on public lands in Nevada. First Solar, Inc., will locate its 50-megawatt facility in the Ivanpah Valley, about 40 miles south of Las Vegas. Called the Silver State North Solar Project, it’s to cover 618 acres and is expected to produce enough electricity to power 15,000 homes. It’s also estimated to create 300 construction jobs and 10 permanent operation jobs.

This past spring, seven desert tortoises were found within the project area. A relocation/translocation plan has been developed for those and any other tortoises found there. The facility was one of 14 “fast-track” renewable energy projects identified in 2009 for 2010 approval.

The first solar projects ever to be built on public lands were also approved in October. They were all in Southern California and, according to Salazar, together could generate 1,124 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power 337,200 homes.

And within the geothermal field of clean energy, a report released in late October by the Geothermal Energy Association said that geothermal companies will add jobs faster than in the conventional energy sector, including natural gas. Using data from the U.S. Department of Energy, the report said for every megawatt of geothermal energy generated, four jobs could be created. That was compared to one job created for every megawatt of energy produced by natural gas.

The report stated, “Geothermal projects that are currently in advanced stages of development in the states of Nevada, California and Utah alone have the potential to create more than 2,500 permanent, full-time position and nearly 10,000 annual construction jobs.”