The Trump administration approved a proposal Monday to construct and operate the largest solar power project in U.S. history, issuing a final permit for a massive facility just north of Las Vegas.
The $1 billion Gemini project would be the eighth-largest solar facility in the world, the Interior Department said, generating 690-megawatts of power, enough electricity for 260,000 homes in the Las Vegas area and potential markets in Southern California.
Nevada utility NV Energy, a subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is providing financial backing to the project, which will be completed as early as 2022. It will generate more than $3 million annually in federal revenues, the Interior Department said.
The Trump administration cast the decision as representative of its “all of the above” approach to increasing U.S. energy production on public lands, which critics say has been mostly focused on fossil fuels.
President Trump has frequently criticized renewable power, questioning its reliability. The administration also touted the project as a job-creator for an area hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Interior Department said construction of the facility, spanning some 7,100 acres (11 square miles) of federal land, would create 500 to 700 temporary jobs, along with 1,100 support jobs during that time.
When the facility is built, it will support 19 permanent jobs, said Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
“Our economic resurgence will rely on getting America back to work, and this project delivers on that objective,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, the main industry lobbying group, celebrated the decision.
The group’s endorsement is notable given it has had disagreements with other Trump administration policies, including its use of tariffs on imported solar panels.
“The solar industry is resilient and a project like this one will bring jobs and private investment to the state when we need it most,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We appreciate the work that the Trump Administration has done to make this historic project a reality.”
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