Solar Tribune

Las Vegas is Becomming a Leader in Sustainability


Las Vegas is becoming an unlikely leader in sustainability and solar energy.

Describing Las Vegas as unique is something of an understatement. After all, it’s a city so iconic and distinct in the zeitgeist it has its own catchphrases and even a one-of-a-kind nickname in “Sin City.” Over the next decade, however, Vegas may become known for very different reasons. Rather than maintaining a reputation as the center of all things debauched, Las Vegas may well have a reputation as a leader in a very different area—sustainability.

Location, Location, Location

Ironically, the very same geography that defined Vegas as the ultimate escape from reality is now driving its culture of sustainability. Vegas, like much of Nevada, is located within the Great Basin and experiences a very low rate of annual precipitation, but— like most population centers in Nevada— is located near a water source (the Colorado river). Thanks to an agreement drafted in the 1920s, however, Las Vegas receives only 2% of that supply. Faced with a limited amount of an essential resource, the city took dramatic steps to curb water usage beginning in the 2000s.  For the last 15 years, Vegas has managed to eliminate all growth in water usage, making it a leader in water reform in the West.

On the flip side of the sustainability coin, however, the very desert location that has made water acquisition stressful has actually made Vegas a prime location for one of the main drivers in modern, sustainability culture—solar technology.

Sun in Sin City

If Las Vegas has one resource in greater supply than entertainment, it would be sunshine. As such, it comes as little surprise that Nevada ranked third in solar installations last year just behind California and North Carolina. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state leads the nation in solar power potential overall. It’s not just eco-minded homeowners getting in on solar in Las Vegas, either; major casinos and NV Energy, the state-run power utility, are also turning to this technology.

An Economic and Ecological Advantage

Money as well as sustainability is of course driving much of this switch to solar. Major casino entities such as Mandalay Bay see a more than healthy ROI when they leverage their rooftops in service of major solar panel installations. By playing ball with solar tech as well, a public utility such as NV Energy maintains a revenue stream as more and more homes and businesses start turning to grid-tied installations. Homeowners, too, can save a sizable chunk off their monthly utility bill. The state has also drafted a Renewable Portfolio Standard that has solar on track to account for 25 percent of retail electric sales by the ear 2025.

As more public and commercial buildings as well as homeowners learn about the economic and environmental advantages of solar, Vegas is very likely to lead Nevada’s sustainability growth. Given that, someday switching Vegas’ nickname from “Sin City” to “Sun City” doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

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