Copper Rays Solar Project would be nation's 6th-highest for energy production capacity

Copper Rays Solar Project would be nation’s 6th-highest for energy production capacity

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First in a series of stories examining solar power in Nevada

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A proposed solar energy project covering 5,127 acres just southeast of Pahrump would generate up to 700 megawatts of electricity.

That would tie for the sixth-highest capacity solar farm under development in the U.S., and could generate more power than the Gemini project (690 megawatts) under development near Valley of Fire northeast of Las Vegas. A 700-megawatt plant would produce enough electricity for 189,000 average residential customers in a year.

The Copper Rays Solar Project is currently going through a 45-day scoping period. The public comment period opened Nov. 14 and will include two virtual meetings (Dec. 6 and Dec. 7, 6-8 p.m.) More information on the meetings is available on the project ePlanning website at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2019523/510.

A map of the proposed Copper Rays Solar Project site. (Bureau of Land Management)

Construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of the plant are all part of the scoping process. The solar farm has an expected life of 30 years. The proposal includes a transmission line that runs to Pahrump.

“Public comments are critical as we continue to evaluate the proposed project,” said Nicholas Pay, BLM’s Pahrump Field Office Manager.

“The type of comments that would be most helpful during the scoping period include potential local concerns and issues related to the proposed action, identification of potential alternatives and issues to be analyzed, possible measures to minimize or avoid adverse environmental impacts, information about historic and cultural resources within the area that may potentially be affected, and any other information relevant to the proposed action,” Pay said.

The rapid expansion of solar farms in Nevada has brought jobs and less reliance on fossil fuels. The state is currently ranked sixth in the U.S. for total electricity generation from solar energy. Renewable energy from all sources supplied 33% of Nevada’s total in-state generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But not every project wins approval. A proposal for a massive 9,200-acre, 850-megawatt project known in Moapa Valley was canceled when a group called Save Our Mesa rallied to preserve the desert area including Mormon Mesa.

A comment on a Facebook post about public comment on Copper Rays describes the area as a prime place for horseback riding.

In 2019, Nevada set a goal of generating 50% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. The target is 100% by 2050.

This is the first in a series of stories over the next week examining solar energy in Nevada. 8 News Now is looking at different aspects of the growth in solar farms — including ones that are already operating, plants that are in development, and some that have been canceled. NEXT: Where Nevada ranks in solar energy production.

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