Over the past three months, California regulators have made headlines by licensing seven huge solar thermal power plants that would generate nearly 3,500 megawatts of electricity if all were built in the Southern California desert.
Garnering far less attention is a solar building boom that is getting under way in neighboring Nevada, which eventually could build plants that send electricity to California as well.
In October, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the Silver State North Solar Project, a 60-megawatt photovoltaic power plant to be built by First Solar on 618 acres of government-owned land near the casino town of Primm 40 miles south of Las Vegas.
And earlier this month Salazar signed off on a 500-megawatt solar thermal complex called the Amargosa Farm Road Solar Energy Project to be built by Solar Millennium, a German developer, some 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Several other large solar projects are currently under review by the United States Bureau of Land Management.
Although state environmental review of big solar power plants in Nevada is far less extensive than in California, the Solar Millennium project initially caused an uproar in Amargosa Valley, a hardscrabble town of sun-beaten mobile homes.