Ground-Breaking News: Moapa Tribe of Paiute Starts First Utility-Scale Solar Project on Tribal Land


First Solar, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the Moapa Tribe of Native Americans break ground on the first utility-scale solar project on Native American land in the U.S.


The Moapa Tribe of Paiute, a Native American Tribe in Nevada, made history on Friday when construction began on the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project. This project, located on the Moapa River Indian Reservation just north of Las Vegas, is the first utility-scale solar project on tribal land in the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada was on site with representatives from the Moapa Band of Paiutes, executives from First Solar, Inc, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, along with other community, government, and energy leaders, to break ground on the 250 MW project.  

For the Moapa Band of Paiutes, the utility-scale solar project provides an ideal way to create economic opportunities while preserving the land and their cultural heritage. “This is an important step in becoming a leader in Indian Country and will help to create a model for other Tribes to follow,” said Aletha Tom, Chairwoman of the Moapa Paiute Tribal Council. “If our small Tribe can accomplish this, then others can also. There are endless opportunities in renewable energy, and Tribes across the nation have the available land on which to build them.”

Senator Reid concurred. “Today’s event marks a very important milestone for Nevada, the Moapa Band of Paiutes, and tribal nations throughout the country,” said Reid. “The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project is the first utility-scale solar project on tribal land and will deliver much needed economic benefits to the Tribe and Nevada. It will also create about 400 construction jobs, and replace dirty energy with clean solar power.”  

This is especially important for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, required to stop receiving coal power from the Navajo Generating Station by 2019. The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar facility is expected to be fully operational in 2015. This plant, along with the nearby Crystal Substation, will enable LADWP to stop receiving coal power from the Navajo plant by the end of 2015, four years before it is required by California state law. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8.4 million metric tons (MMT) between 2014 and 2019 cumulatively. Additionally, LADWP will be able to repurpose existing transmission systems that now bring in the high-carbon coal power from the Navajo Generating Station. 

The renewable energy from the two solar power projects in Nevada will contribute over 4% to LADWP’s goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020. This transformational goal also includes reducing energy use by at least 10% through energy efficiency measures, expanding local solar and other forms of distributed generation, initiating a robust demand-response program, and rebuilding local power plants to better integrate renewable energy and be more flexible to meet peak demand. 

The Moapa plant alone is expected to generate enough clean solar energy to serve the needs of more than 93,000 homes. This amount of renewable energy will displace approximately 313,000 metric tons of CO2 annually—the equivalent of taking about 60,000 cars off the road. Solar energy from the Moapa plant will contribute 2.4% toward LADWP’s renewable energy portfolio. 

Moapa Southern Paiute Solar, LLC (a subsidiary of First Solar Electric, LLC) is the project owner and will construct the project using First Solar’s advanced PV thin-film solar modules. The project will be built on 2,000 acres of land on the Moapa River Indian Reservation and include an onsite substation and a new 5.5-mile 500 kV transmission line that will connect the project to the existing Crystal Substation, serving energy users in California. The project has a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the LADWP to deliver clean, solar energy for 25 years to the City of Los Angeles.  

“The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project is a significant step toward the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s effort to achieve a major transformation of the city’s power supply — one that has greater reliance on renewable energy resources and zero coal power,” said Marcie L. Edwards, LADWP General Manager. 

“First Solar is thrilled to celebrate this important milestone with Senator Reid and distinguished guests, and honored to work with the Moapa Band of Paiutes on this landmark project,” said Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar. “By working together, we will provide jobs and significant economic benefits to the Tribe and Clark County as well as helping LADWP deliver clean, renewable energy to its customers.