Proposed solar factory could expand Laughlin
September 24, 2011 - 1:00 am
A building boom might be on the horizon for Laughlin if plans for a proposed solar farm, factory and research park take shape.
It’s welcome news for a place that experienced population growth at a snail’s pace over the past decade. According to the latest census figures, 247 people moved to Laughlin in the past 10 years.
Private builders have approached Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak with plans to build apartments and houses in the unincorporated town 90 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
The residential development would be geared toward 2,000 permanent manufacturing workers expected from the project. Another 4,000 construction jobs also would be created.
"We’ll do everything we can to keep them in Laughlin rather than have them go across the river like the casino workers," said Sisolak, who added that few workers would be expected to commute from the Las Vegas Valley outside of construction workers.
In July, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she wanted half the project workers to be Nevadans from all parts of the county, not just the Laughlin area.
This week Sisolak said trade unions contacted him to start discussions with the project developer, Chinese-based ENN Mojave Energy Corp., about job training for locals. The College of Southern Nevada has been in contact about implementing college courses, he added.
"The ball is clearly rolling here," Sisolak said.
County Manager Don Burnette said it’s too soon to talk about what kind of population growth the town might see, but "plans are being developed."
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
The town of more than 7,300 people rests on the Colorado River banks across from Bullhead City, Ariz., an area with more shops, services and about 40,000 people . Steve Johnson, Bullhead City spokesman, said there’s a wait-and-see attitude and no serious talk of residential development related to the project.
Tony Timmons, president of the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes workers will choose to live where they work.
"This will help Laughlin develop further," Timmons said. "We have a hometown grocery store. We don’t have a chain, and we don’t have many fast-food chains. That will come with a population boost."
Timmons added that the town could handle the anticipated growth because of residential development unrelated to the project, with vacant homes and undeveloped land throughout the area.
The Nevada Legislature this year passed a bill that could allow the town’s residents to vote on incorporation in 2012, but first the state must conduct a financial feasibility study, which is expected by Dec. 31.
THE POWER OF POWER
Clark County officials are working with ENN to acquire a 9,000-acre swath of land in the county’s southern tip that reaches both the California and Arizona borders. The Colorado River Commission transferred the land to the county in 2007.
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, who represents ENN, said an agreement with the county could be reached by November.
Once a purchase power agreement between an energy seller and buyer is reached, construction would start. The county keeps the land if an agreement isn’t reached.
An appraisal is required for the county to sell the land below fair market value as an incentive for ENN to build. The project must qualify as something that boosts the area’s economic development.
The Mohave Green Center project would cost between $4 billion and $6 billion to construct. The 1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility would produce thin-film photovoltaic solar panels with six production lines that would produce as many as 5.4 million solar panels per year at full production.
ENN Solar Energy, the parent company, makes high-performance solar modules and provides energy services for an expanding global market, according to the company’s website. It can produce photovoltaic units of up to 5.7 square meters, among the largest in the world.
The photovoltaic panels are designed to create solar power farms that can supplement the output of electric utilities while lowering carbon emissions worldwide and has locations in Beijing, Silcon Valley and Munich.
ENN was founded in 1989, according to its website. The global clean energy company employs more than 25,000 people, operating more than 100 subsidiaries worldwide and has more than $6 billion in assets.
Officials said they hoped construction on the manufacturing plant would start late this year or early 2012. The goal is to produce solar cells by March 2013. Many of the panels would be installed in the solar farm, which could take shape in 2014.
"Everything hinges on the (purchase power agreement)," Sisolak said. "They don’t get a PPA, there are no jobs and no development. Everyone is waiting with bated breath and keeping fingers crossed."
Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@review journal.com or 702-455-4519.