If Monday’s National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 provided the classroom lesson on green development, then Tuesday’s Clean Energy Jobs Tour was the field trip.
A day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hosted a daylong green-power discussion featuring former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, Reid took several dignitaries on a road trip to see some of Southern Nevada’s newest ecofriendly developments.
The tour stopped inside the front entrance of CityCenter, the $8.5 billion megaresort MGM Mirage plans to open on the Strip in December.
CityCenter is the largest private development under way in the nation. It is also the largest green project of its kind.
Jim Murren, chairman and chief executive officer of MGM Mirage, said the company wanted to create "great urban planning from the beginning," with good circulation of pedestrians and cars, a walkable cluster of multiple uses such as condominiums and retail, and sustainability.
To target its efforts, MGM Mirage added CityCenter to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, an initiative that requires participants to meet dozens of standards on energy efficiency, water conservation and use of recycled materials, among other construction measures.
Tuesday’s visitors saw evidence of CityCenter’s LEED efforts in every direction, from the electric-powered monorail at the project’s heart to overhangs that shade windows from the sun. Drought-resistant trees already line walkways outside, and some of the project’s concrete came from recycling the demolished Boardwalk, which formerly stood on the property. MGM Mirage will recycle 90 percent of CityCenter’s construction waste, and skylights and glass ceilings offer natural light to replace electric lights during the day.
MGM Mirage also trained 9,000 construction workers in sustainability so they could build the property to green guidelines, Murren said.
Building CityCenter based on LEED principles tacked on about $500 million to the proejct’s cost, Murren noted, though a now-defunct state law that granted property-tax rebates for some developers of green projects covered some of the cost. CityCenter has had its difficulties: The winter’s credit crunch cost MGM Mirage its funding on the project. The gaming giant was within an hour of filing for bankruptcy when it hashed out its financing troubles in April.
‘We’ve spent $8.5 billion and we almost bankrupted the company, and we don’t know if it’s going to work," Murren said. "We think people will say, ‘MGM Mirage, they get it. I want to have my conference there and stay there because they believe what I believe.’ It’s an $8.5 billion bet that we can do the right thing and make money."
The hotel will create 10,000 to 12,000 permanent jobs upon completion.
Reid’s tour also stopped at the Rob’s Ridge Solar Project, a development along State Route 159 between Blue Diamond and Bonnie Springs Ranch. Bombard Electric installed two solar-powered emergency stations for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at Rob’s Ridge.
The tour’s final destination was the new Science and Engineering Building at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. There, Reid’s group learned about the university’s research into energy-efficient LED bulbs and studied ecofriendly home construction that Pulte Homes deployed at its Villa Trieste community in Summerlin thanks in part to grants obtained through UNLV.
Executives of local power utility NV Energy were on hand to discuss their $500,000 contribution to the UNLV Foundation to create a minor in solar and renewable energy.
University officials said they expect as many as 50 students to enroll in the program, which began accepting applicants last week. Students can earn concentrations in engineering or policy, and they’ll study subjects including green architecture, economics, environmental history and design of renewable systems such as photovoltaics.
Accompanying Reid were John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff and current president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund; Van Jones, special adviser to the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Jon Wellinghoff, a former consumer advocate for Nevada who’s now chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Cathy Zoi, the U.S. Energy Department’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Jones said the tour showed that Nevada is righting its listing economic ship.
"We have seen the state begin to rally and repower America, and repower itself through this recession," Jones said. "We’re building the future now, here in Nevada. There’s an incredible bounty of assets here."
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512.