Nevada goes solar

CARSON CITY (AP) - Thanks to two big solar projects, Nevada ranked second only to California in solar power development last year, the Solar Energy Industry Association says.

The two generators were the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One project at Boulder City and the 14-megawatt solar panel array installed at Nellis Air Force Base last year.

Together, the solar projects added 78.6 megawatts in solar-generation capacity for Nevada last year while 87.1 megawatts were added for California. The trade group did not have figures for total capacity in the two states.

Photovoltaic systems, like those installed at Nellis, rely on silicon panels to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar thermal plants like Nevada Solar One use the heat of the sun to boil a liquid that creates steam to spin electricity-generating turbines.

The prospect of selling electricity from solar thermal plants to California and other surrounding states represents a big opportunity for Nevada, said Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the solar energy trade group.

"You're poised to be a net exporter of solar energy," Hanis said. "Nevada is just poised for tremendous growth."

Ausra of Palo Alto, Calif., is building a concentrating solar power manufacturing plant near McCarran International Airport. It will use the facility to build solar power components for its own projects and for those of competitors.

Nationally, 245 megawatts of solar power were installed last year. Concentrating solar rose 18 percent with the completion of Nevada Solar One, the first utility-scale plant of that type since 1991. Photovoltaic systems that are linked to utility grids grew by 45 percent.

Analysts attribute solar energy growth partially to tax credits, which end this year. Three bills now pending in Congress, however, would extend the credit for several years.


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