Las Vegas conjures up images of casinos and a hedonistic lifestyle, but the city has now been making the headlines for different reasons, in that it now boasts of powering its public facilities solely from renewable energy.
The city’s clean energy mission was accomplished in December last year, through an agreement with the state investor owned utility NV Energy, where solar power will be supplied via a now operational plant from nearby Boulder City.
Coupled with power provided from NV Energy, every public building, park, traffic light, and streetlight will be served by renewable energy.
This makes Las Vegas the first large municipality in the United States to achieve such a high volume of green power, producing a carbon footprint, the city government says, that is the same as what is was back in 1950.
Las Vegas’ efforts date back to 2006, when the then Mayor Oscar B. Goodman signed the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. Two years later, targets were set by the City Council to increase the levels of renewable energy production, and reduce gas emissions via their Sustainable Energy Strategy. Since that agreement eleven years ago, the city government has invested in several renewable energy projects, and has now devoted $70 million to the cause.
Alongside the Boulder City solar park, a three-megawatt solar plant at the city’s Water Pollution Control Facility now provides power for extensive wastewater treatment. A total of 40 buildings in the city - from community centres to fire stations and parks - have approximately three megawatts of net-metered solar covered parking.
Looking to the future, in October this year, Las Vegas will receive two megawatts of hydropower from the Hoover Dam. According to city government statistics, the reversion to renewables has paid off economically, as energy costs have been reduced from a peak of $15 million in 2008 to less than $10 million last year.
A spokesperson for the Las Vegas administration said: “It is very significant for the city of Las Vegas, a long-time leader in sustainability, Las Vegas is the first city of its size in the United States to rely on 100 percent renewable energy.”
“Las Vegas is a prime example of what can be achieved, from our alternative fuelled fleets to our solar power generation. We believe that this will prompt other major cities to do the same.”