The 250 megawatt solar farm that the Moapa Band of Paiutes are building on tribal property was purchased by First Solar last week from K Road Power Holdings. The project is the first utility-scale solar project on a Native American reservation.
The Moapa Solar Project was first announced by K Road Power in June 2012. However, when it was first announced, the solar farm was planned as one totaling up to 350 megawatts. The smaller solar project will be constructed 2,000 acres of Moapa land in Clark County, northeast of Las Vegas, Nev. The Moapa are building the project even as a coal fired power plant—which has caused innumerable health issues for members of the tribe—is set to close.
"K Road is pleased to announce the launch of this pioneering project, and grateful for the stalwart support of our key partners and stakeholders, the Moapa Tribe, the federal and state agencies, and the IBEW. These folks have played an invaluable role in helping bring this novel project to the eve of construction," said K Road CEO William Kriegel. "First Solar's deep experience and proven capabilities will ensure that the project is expeditiously completed to the highest standard, while carefully considering the interests of all stakeholders."
Under the new agreement, First Solar will design and build the solar project, which will use its Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) thin film solar modules. "First Solar is proud to participate in this landmark project on lands where it can benefit the economic development of the Moapa Paiute tribe and serve clean energy to the City of Los Angeles," said Jim Hughes, First Solar CEO. "We're excited to build on the foundation and hard work of K Road and so many key stakeholders to make this project a reality, establishing a significant source of clean, renewable energy for the region."
The project received approval from the Department of Indian Affairs and Department of the Interior last year. K Road signed a 50-year lease with the Moapa Band of Paiutes. And the project already has a 25-year power-purchase agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for the power that the solar plant produces.
Already, the initial construction and the relocation of desert tortoise species have begun at the site. First Solar said the project could be completed by the end of 2015. During the peak of construction, the project is anticipated to create up to 400 jobs. This coincides with K Road's initial plant to help increase tribal employment through training members of the Moapa band of Paiutes with training. Once the solar farm is finished, it will provide 10 permanent positions.
K Road is also hopeful that this project will help foster interest in future renewable energy projects on tribal lands. This is beginning to happen, as the Native American tribe recently signed an agreement with Herbst Energy and Stronghold to develop up to 1.5 gigawatts of clean energy on its lands.