Tribal land solar power plant powers up

LAS VEGAS — Elected officials and tribal leaders helped Friday to power up a sun-to-electricity array that, in 2012, was the first utility-scale power production plant approved by the U.S. Interior Department on Indian land.

The 250 megawatts generated at the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, about 30 miles north of Las Vegas, will go to Los Angeles, where it could power 111,000 homes, said Georges Antoun, an executive with project owner First Solar Inc.

Tribal chairman Darren Daboda said in a statement that the first-of-its-kind project shows that even small tribes can benefit from commercial renewable energy projects.

The tribe, with about 350 members, has three solar arrays planned with private partners on its sprawling 112-square-mile Moapa River Indian Reservation.

Then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the nearly completed project last September and signed documents giving the go-ahead to another 100-megawatt plant in a partnership between the tribe and publicly-traded First Solar.

The tribe also has another 200-megawatt solar plant planned with a separate company on another part of the reservation.

The tribe is perhaps best-known to Interstate 15 motorists for its travel stop and fireworks stand at a freeway exit leading to Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park.