The 100 MW Aiya Solar Project, located on tribal trust land in Clark County, Nev., has been approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
Yesterday, DOI Secretary Sally Jewell joined leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and First Solar to announce approval of the project. Jewell’s visit to Nevada was the last of a three-state tour to highlight the Obama administration’s efforts to support renewable energy, says the DOI.
Located about 40 miles northeast of Las Vegas, the Aiya Solar Project is the third utility-scale photovoltaic facility approved for development on the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians Reservation. In addition, the project is the 60th renewable energy project approved for federally administered land since 2009 as part of a department-wide effort to advance the smart development of renewable energy on the nation’s public lands, the agency adds.
Jewell, who serves as chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, announced the approval following a tour of First Solar’s previously approved Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project site. Aiya was proposed by Aiya Solar Project LLC, a subsidiary of First Solar Inc., and was developed by First Solar in partnership with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians.
According to the DOI, the record of decision for Aiya approves the construction, operation and maintenance of the low-impact photovoltaic plant and associated infrastructure on about 900 acres of tribal land. Infrastructure would include an electric line to connect the project to the existing transmission grid, a water pipeline, an operations and maintenance building, and other related facilities.
The facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 25,000 homes and create about 300 construction jobs on the reservation, according to First Solar. The company and the tribe have proposed operation of the facility for at least 30 years; this includes two options to renew the lease for an additional 10 years each.
The DOI says the project will help provide a long-term, diverse and viable economic revenue base and job opportunities for the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, as well as assist Nevada and neighboring states in meeting their renewable energy needs.
In evaluating the proposed project’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs worked closely with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and cooperating agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the DOI notes.
The Aiya project is one of four solar power facilities planned by First Solar and Tribes in the area. In 2012, the DOI approved the 250 MW Moapa Southern Paiute Solar photovoltaic facility, serving customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power under a 25-year power purchase agreement. This first-ever utility-scale solar project on American Indian trust lands is currently under construction and is nearing completion. First Solar is also working with the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe on another 100 MW facility at its Snow Mountain Reservation and with the Fort Mojave Tribe on a 300 MW project at its Fort Mojave Reservation.
Prior to 2009, says the DOI, there were no solar energy projects permitted on federally administered land.
“As our nation’s renewable energy portfolio continues to grow, it is important that tribal communities have every opportunity to harness the energy of the sun and wind in a way that can power homes, businesses and economies,” said Jewell.