The Clark County School Board heard strong community support for a proposal to switch to solar power and the potential to save millions over the next two decades.
But the proposal to switch off NV Energy and use solar power for all of the district’s schools will still likely go through a public bidding process.
The three companies behind the proposal — Capital Dynamics, Tenaska and Switch — touted the move as a wise one to take advantage of solar tax credits attractive to investors.
Capital Dynamics would built a 195-megawatt solar project in Nevada. Tenaska would manage the energy from the plant.
Benoit Allehaut, a director for Capital Dynamics, said the company has two shovel-ready parcels in Clark County for the project.
The tax credits are a strong incentive for Capital Dynamics’ investors, which include a California teachers retirement fund.
The companies did not provide an exact amount of how much the district could save, although Allehaut alluded to a figure close to $60 million. In addition, Capital Dynamics would pay the fee to exit NV Energy — estimated at $80 million.
The district would still use NV Energy’s transmission and distribution lines.
“We want you to be independent, to generate your own power,” Allehaut told trustees. “You will still be connected to NV Energy, to the grid, but you will pay substantially less.”
But Trustee Chris Garvey expressed concerns over the plan, including locking in the same rate for 25 years.
She also noted a slide in the presentation that appeared to list Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas among the entities that have left NV Energy, although that was not accurate.
“I think that this says more to people than what is reality, so that gives me a little caution,” she said. “It makes people think that the school district should get on board.”
Jared Fisher, a candidate for governor who uses solar energy for his business, said he only sees the plan as a win for the entire state.
“This is a perfect example of having business work with government, and opening up the free market,” he said. “And let’s face it — government has a tough time driving down the cost of things and managing budgets.”
Bob Sweetin, city attorney for Mesquite, encouraged the board to move forward with the proposal.
“You are getting this incredible discount, and you’ll have the opportunity to save on some of these tax credits,” he said. “In addition, you’ve got these guys who are willing to fit the bill at the (Public Utilities Commission), which is sizable.”
In a statement, NV Energy said it’s proud of its long-standing partnership with the district.
“We’ve helped install more than 40 solar and additional energy efficiency projects at schools around the valley,” spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said in an email. “These projects not only help the District save energy and money, this important customer received more than $14 million in related state-mandated public policy incentives paid for by NV Energy customers.”
NV Energy will work with the district as it evaluates the costs and risks of the proposal, she said.
Trustee Carolyn Edwards expressed support for the idea of solar power but requested to hear from NV Energy at a future meeting as well.
Schools enter Turnaround Zone
Three of the Clark County School District’s most underperforming schools will enter into the district’s Turnaround Zone and will soon have new leadership: Lynch Elementary, Reed Elementary and Johnston Middle School.
They are among 14 schools that have entered into three-year school performance agreements, a new initiative that seeks to have those schools reach three stars in three years — by the end of the 2019-2020 school year.