Moapa gets approval for first utility-scale PV project on tribal lands

Moapa PV farm site The tribal lands of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Clark County, Nev., will soon home to a new, 350 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm. It’s the first utility-scale solar project on American Indian Trust Land and it’s the first that the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior (DOI) approved.

“We’re very proud, it’s an exciting milestone. We’ve been working on it for many years, working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and with the Department of the Interior,” said. Carl Weatherley-White, a spokesperson for K Road Power. K Road subsidiary, K Road Moapa Solar LLC, proposed the project to DOI. The support of both federal agencies was a very significant part of that achievement, he said.

“The tribe has been working on this concept for many years and certainly recognize the potential for solar energy on their land,” said Weatherley-White. “They’re looking forward to a coal plant shutting down,” he said.

Construction on the three-phase project is slated to begin this fall, according to Weatherley-White. The project also includes the construction of a 500-kilovolt transmission line that ties the farm to the grid, and after the first phase is completed, a 12-kilovolt transmission line that will run to the Moapa Travel Plaza. The larger transmission line also transects about 12-acres of land under the Bureau of Land Management.  

The project will create up to 400 jobs during construction and 15 to 20 permanent positions, according to DOI. “There will be job opportunities with the tribe that will be supplemented by outside contractors,” Weatherley-White said. “Like a lot of Indian tribes they certainly will benefit from economic development. For these guys one of the driving factors is economic development on the land. That’s in part what’s driving this effort.”

The array will take up roughly 2,000 acres of the tribe’s reservation, which is 30 miles north of Las Vegas, according to DOI. It will cover about 3 percent of the tribe’s 71,954-acres, which are held in trust by the U.S. Government.