Vegas resort planning rooftop solar power array

LAS VEGAS — A casino company marked a visit to Las Vegas by new federal Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with an announcement Tuesday about a plan to install a rooftop solar array at a Strip hotel and convention center that will host a National Clean Energy Summit next month.

The 6.2 megawatt rooftop installation at the Mandalay Bay Conference and Convention Center is expected to add to a growing inventory of solar power projects in and around Las Vegas when it begins operating next year.

MGM Resorts International said in a statement that at peak production, solar collectors should be able to generate nearly 20 percent of the electricity needs at the sprawling Mandalay Bay property.

MGM Resorts is partnering on the project with NRG Solar LLC, a subsidiary of publicly traded NRG Energy Inc. The cost wasn’t immediately disclosed. Construction is slated to begin this summer.

The announcement was made during a visit by Jewell and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in advance of the sixth annual clean energy conference scheduled Aug. 13. Jewell and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz have been announced as keynote speakers. Both are new appointments this year to President Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Jim Murren, chairman CEO of MGM Resorts, called the use of environmentally responsible practices a key part of his company’s sustainability plan.

NRG Solar chief Tom Doyle said installation of the 20,000-panel solar array would help the resort control its energy costs.

The array should produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,000 homes and reduce demand on the area’s electricity grid, officials said.

MGM Resorts, owner of Strip hotels including the Bellagio, MGM Grand and The Mirage, chose the sprawling Mandalay Bay complex for the project due to its nearly 20-acre convention center rooftop, the company statement said. The three-floor convention center has some 1.7 million square feet of indoor space.

The solar array will help power more than 4,750 hotel rooms at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, Four Seasons Hotel and THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, plus the Shark Reef aquarium, restaurants and retail shops.

Reid has pushed hard in recent years for the development of solar electricity plants in and around Las Vegas, a desert city surrounded by vast open space baked by plentiful sun.

Nevada Solar One, a 75-megawatt commercial project covering some 400 acres, began operating in 2007 in nearby Boulder City.

NRG Energy is involved with BrightSource Energy in the development of a much larger commercial project, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, on nearly 5½ square miles off Interstate 15 some 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas. It is expected to begin operating this year, with a capacity of 392 megawatts.

At Nellis Air Force Base, a 70,000-panel solar array on 140 acres began producing power in 2007. Officials say the 14-megawatt system can supply 25 percent of the electricity needed at the military facility north of Las Vegas.

Las Vegas city officials in April powered up a $20 million solar array on 25 acres to provide 3 megawatts of power to a nearby municipal wastewater treatment plant. That’s about half the capacity of the Mandalay Bay project.