Boulder City focusing on solar power to help weather economic storm

The future is as bright as the sun for Boulder City, where more than 8,000 acres of city land has been or will be dedicated to solar development.

Mayor Roger Tobler in his State of the City address delivered Thursday evening focused on the community’s "energy zone," a large tract of land dedicated to the development of solar power.

In recent years the city has partnered with solar companies Sempra and Solar 1, which have developed facilities that generate more than 120 megawatts. That figure will rise to about 1,400 megawatts once other sites now in the planning stage are developed.

Seth Masia of the American Solar Energy Society said that is enough sun-harnessed energy to provide electricity to 420,000 homes.

Boulder City is among the larger cities in the state from a geographic perspective, with more than 200 square miles within its boundaries. The available land, the Southern Nevada sunshine and the city’s proximity to the Hoover Dam power grid make it ideal for solar development.

Tobler thinks the city’s partnerships with solar companies will be a financial panacea for Boulder City.

He said continued development of the energy zone would continue to be an "invaluable asset" to the city that could eliminate its debt, restore capital reserves, stabilize other city funds and rebuild the city’s recession-ravaged ending fund balance.

In fact, Tobler said, the lease revenues the city collects from solar development have played a key role in maintaining services and programs with little interruption.

With the lease payments, Tobler said, the city will receive upfront payments totaling $8.5 million from the companies.

Tobler said another benefit of solar power development is the potential creation of 2,000 to 3,000 jobs.

"These are construction jobs," he said before his address. "But that’s still huge. This is a big deal, and nobody’s talking about it."

Other 2011 highlights include the widening of U.S. Highway 93 through Hemenway Valley.

After the Hoover Dam bypass bridge opened, traffic in Boulder City, with a population of about 15,000, was as congested as rush hour in Las Vegas.

Tobler said the project provided a measure of relief, but recent jams caused by holiday travelers show that widening the road was a temporary solution.

"The only viable long-term way to address this problem will be the construction of Interstate 11, which includes the bypass around Boulder City," he said.

The proposed interstate, which would connect Las Vegas and Phoenix, got a boost last November when Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., inserted language in a federal highways bill that made the route eligible for funding.

Tobler said the Regional Transportation Commission seeks a public-private partnership to build a bypass around Boulder City.

Boulder City appears to be on a rebound from the recession. For the first time in three years, the city’s budget projections were on target in 2011.

Tobler attributed the modest recovery to expense reductions, the aforementioned solar lease revenue and a slight uptick in property tax receipts.

"This has been a difficult few years," he said. "And it has required the best in all of us to meet the challenges of a struggling economy."

Contact Doug McMurdo at or 702-224-5512.

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