Nevada utility regulators again reject plan for solar plant on Moapa tribal land outside Vegas

Energy Associated Press

Nevada regulators rejected for the second time Wednesday a request to waive competitive bids for utility company NV Energy to buy solar power from a proposed solar generation station on the Moapa River Paiute Indian Reservation outside Las Vegas.

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Proponents said they hope the company will try again.

State Bureau of Consumer Protection chief Eric Witkowski called the Public Utilities Commission's decision a win for consumers, because he said it will help ensure customers don't overpay.

NV Energy didn't immediately comment.

Sierra Club representative Barbara Boyle called the PUC decision a disappointment and a threat to a proposal that would create jobs while replacing a coal-fired power plant blamed for spewing pollution on the reservation.

"NV Energy's unique proposal to partner with the tribe is integral to the project's success," Boyle said in a statement. "The commission has once again kicked the can down the road by keeping this shovel-ready project from breaking ground."

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The PUC first rejected the power purchase plan in October, after being told a Moapa solar project capable of producing up to 200 megawatts of electricity would cost $438 million to build. The plant was expected to generate a steady capacity of 76 megawatts.

The commission said at the time that the utility should seek competitive bids to buy the 54 megawatts of electricity it says it needs to supply its customers.

Sierra Club officials pointed this week to revisions of the plan that reduced the overall capacity to 175 megawatts and an NV Energy pledge to cap the project cost at a little more than $383 million.

The company projected the cost of the energy produced at the plant at less than similar projects, and lower than the cost of energy if it builds a natural gas power plant.

NV Energy has promised to shut down the nearby coal-fired Reid Gardner generating station by the end of 2017.