Northern Nevada's Largest Solar Project Set to Power-Up
The Turquoise Solar Project will provide 60 megawatts of electricity when it is completed.
Construction continues on northern Nevada's largest solar project. The Turquoise Solar Project is set to electrify its first phase next month, which will provide enough electricity for about 10,000 homes.
"We should be wrapping up construction in the next three weeks and then at that time, we'll start the testing and commissioning of the project to get it online by the end of the year," Tim Jordan, Vice President of Solar Construction for Renewable Energy Systems said.
Liberty Utilities will sell the energy to its customers on the California side of Lake Tahoe.
"A plant like this, a 10-megawatt facility here at Turquoise is a major contribution to our goal of providing not just energy but clean, renewable energy to our customers," Greg Sorensen, President of the West Region for Liberty Utilities said.
Estuary Capital Partners started planning the project in 2013 and construction started in July of this year. The entire project will have about 300,000 solar panels, producing 60 megawatts of electricity. NV Energy will sell 50 megawatts to the Apple Data Center, just west of the project.
"With our project being right here and Apple's data center being right there, you need minimal additional transmission resources," Jill Daniel, President of Estuary Capital Partners said.
In the meantime, the project is providing more than 100 jobs. Officials say 80 percent of the workers are from Nevada and 20 percent are veterans.
"What it really does is create wonderful jobs for the community that are well-paying and our purpose is to provide opportunity and enrichment so the talent that's coming here is learning fantastic skills," Seth Stein, President of Workforce Recruitment for Eastridge Workforce Solutions said.
Officials say building a solar project requires unique skills that could come in handy in the future. That could be important for the workers, since the project is expected to be completely finished by the end of 2019.
"We really take pride in training the employees that we're able to hire in the local area, so that's something they can take on to the next project as Nevada looks to build more solar," Jordan said.
"Hopefully, there's some additional opportunities in renewable energy, there's a lot of residential renewable energy and these skills will also transfer to construction trades as well," Stein said.
Officials say there could be other solar projects in northern Nevada in the future. They say demand of renewable energy is on the rise and prices are going down.
"Really, we're creating clean energy projects like this in order to satisfy customer demand," Daniel said. "There's really no limit placed on demand. If I had incremental land now, I would build 10 more of these."
"You're also seeing the cost of renewable energy come down to where it's either at or below the cost of traditional sources," Sorensen said.
The solar panels are built with single axis trackers, which allows the panels to follow the sun. That allows them to produce as much electricity as it can each day.
"That allows us to increase production by about 20 percent compared with having a project at a fixed tilt throughout the day," Daniel said.
Sorensen says that as technology improves, the demand for solar power will only increase. Solar panels create energy during the day but not during after dark.
"When we solve the energy storage challenge, it's going to open up all sorts of avenues from a future perspective and really make renewable energy about the only solution," Sorensen said.
Tesla is in the process of creating a home battery to store solar power, and more states are adopting regulations to increase renewable energy. Question 6 on Nevada's ballot would require energy providers to increase clean energy production to 50 percent by 2030. Regardless, many expect the solar industry to grow in Nevada, especially since there is a lot of land that could be available to develop solar projects.
"We see a great future, not only for us but for Nevada on solar," Jordan said.