It soon will be, in a small scale.
This month Nellis Air Force Base located just north of Las Vegas will start up this continent's largest solar photo-voltaic system, built by the partnership of U.S. Air Force, MMA Renewable Ventures and SunPower Corp. It will generate over 30 million kilowatt hours of power annually and provide 25% of the base's total electricity needs. The system is projected to save the installation $1 million every year, making the source at the same time sustainable and more independent.
Nevada can do much better than that, however. There are more sunny days here than you care to admit. It is estimated that it has the potential to produce 100,000 megawatts of solar power. That was megawatts. Once harnessed and converted it would supply 20 million homes with clean electricity from a reliable source. No disruptions to its delivery, no fluctuating prices and of course no pollution.
The Nellis system is a small step in the right direction. To build a clean energy industry requires ample financing, careful planning and a long time frame. Progressive federal tax policy has been the backbone of the efforts so far and the U.S. Senate is currently debating new energy legislation. One of the critical items on the agenda is the approval of an eight-year extension to the solar energy investment tax credit. Without its passage the nascent industry would face severe obstacles to go forward.
Sen. Reid is for its extension, while Sen. Ensign is still undecided. It would do more than just provide clean energy, it would also create a host of jobs and bolster the state's economy. It could even make Nevada a significant exporter of solar power to other states. Not only our senators should support it, but all senators.