Las Vegas Bets Big on Solar Energy

City leaders plan to power 100 percent of municipal operations with renewable electricity by 2017.
(Photo: George Rose/Getty Images)
Nov 30, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Las Vegas’ municipal buildings, fire stations, streetlights, city parks, and other facilities will run exclusively on renewable energy by 2017, city officials have announced.

The city will purchase some of the electricity generated by utility NV Energy’s 100-megawatt solar plant under construction in nearby Boulder City, Nevada.

The move would make Las Vegas the largest city in the United States to have its municipal operations completely powered by renewable energy.

The deal still needs approval from the Nevada Public Utilities Commission and the Las Vegas City Council, which could come as soon as Dec. 2.

“This partnership is going to be a sustainability game changer for our city,” Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman said in a statement.

RELATED: The U.S. Just Approved One of the World’s Biggest Solar Power Plants

The move is the latest indication that renewable energy costs are becoming more competitive with fossil fuels. NV Energy will buy the electricity from the solar plant operator at about $48 per megawatt hour, roughly half the price solar power commanded just five years ago.

“It’s cheaper than what we could build a new natural gas plant for,” Paul Caudill, president of NV Energy, told the Las Vegas Sun.

The city is not alone. Casino operators Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, and MGM Resorts are looking to switch to renewable energy, according to the newspaper.

Las Vegas’ initiative follows a similar energy switch in Georgetown, Texas, a suburb of about 60,000 outside Austin. The city announced in March it would obtain 100 percent of its power from renewables—a decision made for economic, not environmental, reasons.

“One thing people are surprised by is how environmentally conscious Las Vegas is when all they know appears to be less than sustainable,” Goodman said. “However, we are proud to join other community and business leaders who are all leaders in conservation.”