First utility scale solar plant opens on tribal lands here in Southern Nevada

This marks the first joint appearance for Nevada senators Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez Masto at the commissioning ceremony for the Moapa Paiute Solar Project. 3/17/17 (Gerard Ramalho | KSNV)

The first ever solar plant on tribal lands is now officially in operation, just north of Las Vegas in Moapa.

A symbolic “flipping of the switch” Friday afternoon marked what some believe may be the beginning of a new partnership between energy companies and Native American tribes.

In this case, the company is First Solar and the tribe is Nevada’s Moapa Southern Paiutes.

Tribal leaders see it as a good fit. Clean energy means protecting the environment, including native species like the Desert Tortoise.

“And for us, we’re trying to protect the cultural aspect too, and same with biological,” said Darren Doboda, Chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

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Also for the first time, both Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Dean Heller appeared together in a bipartisan show of support for the project.

“They’ve done a great job and they send the right message to the rest of us on how important it is to keep these lands as pristine as possible,” said Heller.

For the tribe, there are also economic benefits.

About 115 tribal members were a part of the workforce to build the plant. Approximately eight tribal members have been hired on full time to help operate the plant as well.

The Moapa plant will generate enough power to operate 111,000 homes. Those homes are in the Los Angeles area.

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