NextLight Renewable Power LLC (NextLight) expects to sign a contract with the Boulder city by mid-April 2009 to build a 100 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) plant on 1,100 acres in the Eldorado Valley Energy Zone. The company, which would plan to open in 2011, said that it will provide 3 MW of power at 90% of commercial rates if it builds there. NextLight also plans to build a 250 MW thermal energy storage plant on 2,000 acres on the dry lake bed.

The land lease could bring the city about $2.4 million the first year of construction.

But before the city council voted to start negotiations, the Southern Nevada labor leaders pleaded to encourage NextLight and other future companies to hire local workers for construction and operation.

City Manager Vicki Mayes said that she planned to discuss the possibility of hiring Nevada workers in the NextLight talks.

Greg Esposito, business representative for the Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Technicians Union Local 525, said that especially now, big construction projects should pay attention to the region.

In any economic climate, leaving as much money in a community is vital, Esposito said. For paychecks to be crossing borders on a Friday afternoon doesn’t help the community that projects such as these are designed to benefit.

The council also voted to allow NextLight, Martifier Renewables Solar Thermal LLC, and Green Tech Solar to test parts of the dry lake bed for potential solar construction there.

The city has asked for proposals in October 2008 for renewable power plants in the energy zone, on an area near the Wastewater Treatment Plant and on part of the dry lake bed.

Totally eight companies responded by December 2008.

NextLight will ask for a 40-year lease with an option for two 10-year extensions.

If the city can’t come to an agreement with NextLight, it will start negotiations with Copper Mountain Power, which proposed a 130-megawatt photovoltaic plant.

NextLight has also proposed a 250 MW thermal energy storage plant on 2,000 acres on the dry lake bed. If the site is suitable, the company expects to open the plant by August 2012 and offered the city $20 million in improvements to the Wastewater Treatment Plant with a 40-year lease and two 10-year extensions.

That lease could bring $3.8 million in the first year.

Till then, the council members expressed sympathy with the union leaders who complained that Nevada Solar One, the energy zone’s first renewable power plant built by Acciona Energy (Acciona) in 2008, hired workers from Central America and not Nevada, as it had promised.

Acciona has received a $15 million tax rebate from the Nevada Commission on Economic Development to hire locally and pay the state’s prevailing wage, but instead used workers from Mexico and El Salvador for a fraction of the cost, Rich Johnson, president of the Southern Nevada Building and construction Trades Council, said.

Councilwoman Linda Strickland said that if the city required in its contract that the companies use in-state labor, it would be difficult to enforce the provision.

I haven’t given a lot of thought to how that could happen, but I wanted to let you know that I’m with you, to protect the workers of our great state, Strickland said.