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Moapa Solar Farm Enters $1.6 Billion Deal to Power Los Angeles Homes

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The Los Angeles City Council has approved a 25-year, $1.6 billion deal to buy power from a solar plant on the Moapa River Reservation, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The 350-megawatt farm will be the first commercial-grade solar project on tribal land in the U.S. The Interior Department fast-tracked approval of the utility-scale solar farm in June. Nearly one million photovoltaic panels will be built on 2,000 acres of the tribe's 71,954-acre landbase in Clark County, Nevada, just 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas, said William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians.

The solar plant is expected to go online in 2016, generating enough electricity for 118,000 homes in Los Angeles. The tribe and its developer, K Road Power, also plan to erect a 12kV transmission line to the existing Moapa Travel Plaza truck stop.

“We’re right by an energy corridor, with many above- and below-ground lines for electricity, natural gas, fiber optics, and more easily accessible,” Anderson told ICTMN in August. “Connecting is much less expensive than if we were farther away.”

The project will provide lease income for the tribe, as well as new jobs.

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“We should have about 400 jobs at peak construction and 15 to 20 permanent jobs—real career jobs tribal members can look forward to,” Anderson said.

The environmental impact study went well, Anderson said, and one of the first phases of the five-year construction will include creating a preserve for the desert tortoise, an endangered species.

Ironically, the renewable energy project will be located just a few miles southwest of a coal-burning electric plant that borders the reservation: Nevada Energy’s Reid Gardner Power Station. The tribe blames the toxin-laden coal ash—a byproduct of combustion that Nevada Energy dumps into landfills within hundreds of yards of the reservation—for tribal members' disproportionately high rate of respiratory illnesses and other health problems often resulting in premature death.

“The soot—and the dangerous chemicals inside it—is literally killing the Paiutes," said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, during the National Clean Energy Summit on August 7 in Las Vegas.

In a statement on November 27, Sen. Reid said: "Unlike the old, dirty technologies used at the nearby Reid Gardner coal plant, this new solar project will not emit any hazardous emissions, wastes, or carbon pollution."