State approves solar projects contract |

State approves solar projects contract

The Board of Examiners Tuesday approved a master contract designed to fast track construction of 55 solar projects providing power to state agencies.

Stacey Crowley, head of the governor’s energy office, said the contract with Sierra Nevada Construction sets up a process to move those projects forward before the end of this fiscal year when tax breaks for business and rebates from the federal government expire.

The idea is to have Sierra Nevada partner with various state agencies to build solar generating projects on roof tops and parking lots of state buildings as well as other sites and contract with those agencies to sell them the electric power produced under a power purchase contract. Those 55 different potential sites already have been identified.

She said the idea is to lock in the cost of electric power at or below what agencies are now paying, saving as much as $44 million over the next 20 years while providing up to 300 jobs and $240 million in private investment in Nevada. That could translate into a 20 percent reduction in state energy costs by 2015.

Signing the contract as a master service agreement, Crowley said, enables the construction company to get better prices by buying the solar panels in bulk and better financing for the projects.

Each of the contracts, Crowley said, will have to bring in the cost of the energy for that agency “budget neutral or better than the rate they’re currently paying.”

The project was originally proposed in the final days of the Jim Gibbons administration but put off until Gov. Brian Sandoval took over and had a chance to review it.

Crowley said a few minor changes in the proposed contract during that period will reduce the state’s potential liability by enabling the parties to get out of a contract if it proves not financially beneficial to either side.

She said three agencies are ready to go with project contracts immediately: The Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Corrections and Veteran’s Administration.

Contracts developed for those agencies, she said, will provide a template to get the other projects under contract before the end of the fiscal year.