Las Vegas is a city of bright lights, fancy shows, sprawling deserts, and a brand new solar farm that will provide energy for a nearby waste water treatment plant. The 15,000 panel solar farm is densely packed into 25 acres of city land that was originally an empty strip of land serving as a buffer between the city and the treatment plant. The plant treats and processes all of the city’s waste water on its way toward Lake Mead.
According to Tom Perrigo, Las Vegas’ chief sustainability officer, the water treatment plant alone accounts for approximately one third of the city’s energy expenditure, along side streetlamps and city buildings. The new solar farm will generate six million kilowatt hours of energy each year, providing about 20 percent of the plant’s power requirements. This three megawatt solar farm is the largest installation in Las Vegas’ energy portfolio.
Solar panels have been installed on 29 other city buildings and generate an additional two megawatts of energy, which surpasses the benchmark set by the city council in 2008. Between the solar arrays and other programs, including converting to LED light sources, the city’s annual energy bill has been cut by $5 million in the past ten years. The solar installation project was funded using the city’s sanitary enterprise fund, and some of the costs were deflected thanks to rebates and grants.
In the long run, renewable energy projects always pay for themselves. This solar array is expected to repay the investment within 25 years, but the installation is expected to function for 40 or more years, potentially paying for itself twice over in savings. With wide open expanses of untouched desert, Las Vegas and other cities in Nevada will likely expand their energy portfolios with more concentrated solar farms to provide a clean and renewable energy source.
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