Commentary: Big energy projects will help Nevada bounce back from COVID-19 lockdown

Commentary: Big energy projects will help Nevada bounce back from COVID-19 lockdown

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Commentary

As Nevada and the rest of the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, every level of government – federal, state and local – should be doing everything possible to create jobs and jumpstart the economy.

The Trump administration, Congress, and the Federal Reserve have already injected trillions of dollars into the economy to offset some of the impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown. But a strong recovery will also require huge, game-changing infrastructure projects that put people to work in the short term and make our economy stronger over the long haul.

Remember, more than 440,000 Nevadans have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown. To rebound stronger than ever, we will need all of those jobs back – and then some. For leaders in government and the private sector, this means one thing: Think big.

For a great example of thinking big, look no further than the Trump administration’s recent approval of the Gemini Solar Project, to be built roughly 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas. This $1.1 billion clean energy project is massive – covering up to 7,100 acres or more than 11 square miles. For scale, that’s 2.5 times the size of McCarran International Airport.

The Trump administration’s approval of the Gemini project was necessary because it will be built on federal land. According to the Department of the Interior, Gemini will create an average of 500 to 700 construction jobs over the next two years and support a further 1,100 jobs throughout the local community. More than $700 million in wages and economic output will be generated during the construction phase, which is expected to last until 2022.

And with 690 megawatts of electric generating capacity, Gemini is the largest ever solar project in U.S. history – and the eighth biggest solar facility in the world.

“Our economic resurgence will rely on getting America back to work, and this project delivers on that objective,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said when the approval was announced in early May.

When finished, Gemini will also be a vital piece of infrastructure for Nevada, adding both capacity and stability to our power grid. In addition to producing clean, carbon-free electricity from the sun, Gemini will also have another 380 megawatts of battery storage. This breakthrough technology will allow the facility to generate electricity during the middle of the day and keep it stored for several hours until it’s needed during the early evening, when power demand surges all across Nevada.

The Gemini project will take Nevada’s national leadership on clean energy to a new level.

We already generate more than 25 percent of our electricity from solar and other renewable sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Our existing renewable power infrastructure has contributed $7.9 billion in economic activity and generated more than 12,000 jobs since 2006, according to a joint report from the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and The Western Way, a think tank that promotes free market solutions to environmental challenges. Investment and job creation in the renewable energy sector has also generated more than $150 million in taxes for Nevada, with most revenue going to K-12 public schools and local governments.

Before COVID-19, Nevada’s energy sector played an important role in our economy. Coming out of the lockdown, developing our own energy resources can help us emerge from this crisis stronger than we were before.

In this effort, we have a strong partner in President Trump. Federal lands play a critical role in the Trump administration’s doctrine of energy dominance, which calls for increased domestic production from all sources – conventional and renewable – to maintain our independence from hostile energy-producing nations, like Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This is a major opportunity for Nevada, because in addition to abundant solar energy resources, we also have the highest percentage of federal land of any state in the nation.

Federal lands, clean energy, national security, job creation, and stronger infrastructure: The Gemini project combines them all. It is exactly the kind of project – and the kind of thinking – we need in these challenging times.

Let’s work together to make more projects like this one happen and bring jobs back to Nevada.

Tom Roberts, R-Las Vegas, represents District 13 in the Nevada Assembly.

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