On March 16, the first solar farm on tribal land was activated. The 250 megawatts Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, located on the 112 square mileMoapa River Indian Reservation about 30 miles north of Las Vegas contains more than 3.2 million solar panels covering 2.2 square miles, enough to power about 111,000 homes. Most of the electricity will be sold to utility companies that serve the Los Angeles area.
The Moapa River Indian Reservation was the first solar power project approved by the US Interior Department for installation on tribal land. The planning for the project began in 2012. 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 Moapa River tribe has about 350 members. It plans to partner with other private companies on two more large projects — a 100 megawatt facility with First Solar, a publicly traded company and a 200 megawatt project with private partners.
Reiko Kerr, senior assistant general manager of First Solar said the clean renewable energy from the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project will help meet the goal of deriving 33% of Los Angeles energy from renewable resources by 2020 and 50% by 2025.
Solar power in the American southwest is a burgeoning business but it has been almost too successful. California now has more renewable energy available during the day than it can use. Last year, 305,241 megawatt-hours of solar and wind electricity were lost because they could not be put to productive use. That amount of electricity could have powered about 45,000 California homes for a year. This was almost double the amount of clean power lost in 2015.
The problem is worst in the spring when the sun shines longer each day but fewer people are running their air conditioners, according to data from the State of California. “We need to start finding ways to offset curtailment as we add more renewable sources, or we will be wasting renewable energy,” said Phil Pettingill, director of state regulatory affairs at the California Independent System Operator, the organization in charge of managing the local grid.