Nevada’s future depends upon renewable energy

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The Review-Journal editorial board espouses itself as a libertarian haven but its opinions have long been out-of-touch with the state it represents. I normally pay no attention to their untoward views but the April 14 editorial “At Big Green’s beck and call” was so egregious that it could not be ignored.

In the world inhabited by the Review-Journal editorial board, the sprawling collection of 4 million shimmering solar panels lining U.S. Highway 95 from Boulder City to Searchlight would not exist.

If the Review-Journal editorial board had its way, the seven acres of wind turbines dotting the skyline in White Pine County would have never been built. And the 45,000 homes powered by the wind farm? Too bad, find your power elsewhere.

The first large-scale solar project on tribal lands on the Moapa River Indian Reservation is a short drive from Bonanza Road. Should members of the Review-Journal editorial board visit they will find solar panels across 2,000 acres of land, generating 250 megawatts of power and displacing hundreds of thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 34,000 cars off the road annually.

Travel three hours north to Tonopah and discover the tallest solar power tower in the world, which employed hundreds of workers at the height of its construction. This revolutionary plant uses molten salt to store the sun’s heat so it can continue to generate power long after the sun sets. The Review-Journal would rather that the engineers and experts, who will travel from around the world to view this marvel, spend their time and money in another state.

Nevada has seen a major expansion of its transmission grid that allows Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada to pool their energy resources. Clean tech companies are relocating to our state. Smart investments and steam emanating from underground in Lander, Churchill, Washoe and Elko counties have made Nevada one of the country’s leading producers of geothermal energy.

Clean energy development has invested $6 billion in Nevada — creating tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in tax revenue. And imagine the additional billions in clean energy development if Nevada were not held captive by a utility that will stop progress in order to protect its monopoly.

None of these projects happened by accident or in a vacuum. They are a result of smart federal and state policies that encouraged development. These policies include the very tax incentives that the Review-Journal derides. It is a fantasy to say the federal government should not play any role in creating jobs. By scoffing at programs that promote clean energy, this newspaper is literally cheering against Nevada’s future.

Nevada has a choice. We can either take advantage of these new economics and technologies or we can rely on the dirty, outdated energies of the past. I will always choose the former.

That’s why in December, Congress approved a five-year extension of job-creating wind and solar tax credits. That’s why this year I will continue to work toward an extension of tax incentives for geothermal and other smaller energy technologies.

This is not a charade. Nevada’s hard-earned reputation as a clean energy hub is at stake.

Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is minority leader of the U.S. Senate.

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