News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Solar Project Banking on L.A. Money Gets New Owner

The Moapa Travel Plaza will also be run by power from the tribe's solar project | Photo: wallyg/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A solar power project on a Nevada Indian reservation that will supply Los Angeles with electricity has been sold by its owners before the bulldozers even reached the site. K Road Power, which was to build the 250-megawatt solar project on 2,000 acres of the Moapa Paiute Reservation northeast of Las Vegas, has sold the project to Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar.

First Solar will design and build the Moapa project, which is expected to start construction this year next door to the coal-fired Reid Gardner Power Station, due to end operations by 2017. Fist Solar will use its house-blend cadmium telluride photovoltaic panels on the site.

"First Solar is proud to participate in this landmark project on lands where it can benefit the economic development of the Moapa Paiute tribe and serve clean energy to the City of Los Angeles," said First Solar CEO Jim Hughes in a press release.

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The sale may signal trouble for K Road. The solar developer has just one project in operation, the 25-megawatt McHenry Solar Project in Stanislaus County. The firm's website states that K road has "nine fully permitted utility scale power projects in four regions around the United States totaling over 900 megawatts," but lists just the McHenry and Moapa projects on its site.

Some of that claimed "900 megawatts" likely included K Road's 618-megawatt Calico Solar Project slated for almost 4,000 acres of the Mojave Desert near Ludlow, which K Road canceled in June citing "adverse market conditions."

Nonetheless, K Road CEO William Kriegel was upbeat in his statement on Thursday's sale announcement, saying his firm was "and grateful for the stalwart support of our key partners and stakeholders, the Moapa Tribe, the federal and state agencies, and the IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers]."

"These folks have played an invaluable role in helping bring this novel project to the eve of construction," added Kriegel.

With the sale of the project, First Solar now owns Moapa's 25-year power purchase agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. That agreement made headlines last November when it was approved by the L.A. City Council, which committed to paying $1.6 billion over the 25-year lifespan of the contract. That may well turn out to be a hefty reward for First Solar, though the price K Road got for the project was not immediately available.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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