Touring First Solar's 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project located on the Moapa River Reservation. Photo from Sam Scucci, First Solar

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy hosted a two-day energy track and booth at the National Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas. After a busy few days at the conference, I had the opportunity to join Office of Indian Energy Director Chris Deschene, Senior Policy Advisor Doug MacCourt, and Program Manager Sarai Geary on a visit to a solar project on the Moapa River Reservation. Located 30 miles north of Las Vegas, the 250-megawatt solar photovoltaic project is being built by First Solar and is providing jobs and training for members of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians (Moapa Paiutes). 

The Moapa River Reservation project is incredible in both scale and in how the Tribe has partnered with First Solar. The Moapa Paiutes are leasing the land for the solar array to First Solar, and through that process, ensured that the company would implement a tribal hiring preference program. Native Americans now comprise roughly 25% of the labor force on the array construction site. Of those, more than 40 employees are members of the Tribe.

Every Moapa who wants a job on the site has one.

Greg Anderson
Vice Chairman of the Moapa Paiutes

Additionally, once construction is finished, seven of the long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) jobs will be filled by Native workers. First Solar has also committed to training two members of the Moapa Paiutes in technical solar O&M. This training will include classroom and hands-on learning, as well as job skills education such as interview techniques.

The solar array on the Moapa River Reservation has created revenue, jobs, and long-term economic development opportunities for the Tribe and, once commissioned, will supply valuable clean energy to the grid. This project is a great example of a tribe utilizing land and available renewable resources to further economic development through energy projects.

The Office of Indian Energy provided technical assistance to the Moapa Paiutes when the project was first being explored, and worked with the Moapa tribal government to identify other possible solar projects. Learn more about how the Office of Indian Energy helps American Indians and Alaska Natives maximize the development and deployment of their energy resources through education and trainingtechnical assistance, and funding.

What Are the Key Facts?

- According to First Solar, when fully operational, the Moapa River Reservation project will generate enough clean solar energy to serve the needs of about 100,000 homes per year, displacing approximately 178,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually—the equivalent of taking about 34,000 cars off the road.

- The project will include an onsite substation and a new 5.5-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line that will connect the project to the existing Crystal Substation serving energy users in California.

- Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project has a power purchase agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to deliver clean, solar energy for 25 years.

- Construction is expected to be complete by June 2016.

Sherry Stout
Sherry Stout is an Engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with expertise in sustainable development at the community scale, case study research, and data management.
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