Las Vegas’ blinding lights and sparkling neon signages may not be the first thing you think of when talking about renewable energy, but some of the city’s largest casinos are planning to change that.
Discreetly shrouded among vibrant resorts, a gleaming Eiffel Tower replica, and a black glass pyramid that shoots a straight beam of white light into the sky, sits an array of solar panels so extensive that it has been considered as one of the largest in the country.
You may be surprised to find out that on top of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center — one of the biggest privately owned convention centers in the entire world, with a land area of 1,000,000 square feet — sits a colossal, 20-acre array of solar panels.
Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas Sands, and MGM Resorts, three of the major casino businesses in Las Vegas, have began planning on going completely solar. This move is motivated by the rise in demand for more environmentally friendly energy sources as well as the decreasing cost of solar energy gathered from California and Nevada.
“Not so fast” says NV Energy
This move, however, does not come without a price. NV Energy, Las Vegas’ sole electricity provider, demands that the casinos pay millions of dollars as an “exit fee”. The reason for this is that the casinos’ properties account to more than 7% of the regulators’ revenue. Apparently, once they decide to discontinue their dependency on NV Energy’s services, other customers will have to endure momentous price increases.
An energy economist from the American Solar Energy Society, Bill Ellard, believes that energy regulators and providers are only making it harder for businesses to switch to solar energy in order to protect their revenue.
In fact, MGM Resorts has already harmed the provider’s profits after deciding to take steps in reducing energy consumption. Aside from assembling sun-powered panels, which supposedly has the capability to provide energy to one thousand residential homes for an entire year, the resort also began replacing all 1.3m bulbs with energy-saving LED lights. Unfortunately, to provide enough power to casinos filled with pools, nightclubs, and air-conditioned hotels rooms, the said companies will need to find a larger solar farming area as their rooftop properties will not be enough.
In the event that the resorts push through with their decision to go green, they will be asked to pay a total of USD 126.5 million. This price has been decided by the electricity companies, which they said is enough to forestall the steep price hikes.
The fight for alternative energy
Las Vegas Sands and MGM have yet to fully decide which option to go with. Should they proceed with solar energy and pay up, or should they continue utilizing NV Energy’s services? With ridiculously high exit fees, the lawyers of Wynn Las Vegas are wondering whether these fees are even legal. “The PUC (public utility commission) has simply made up rules as it goes along so as to discourage any applicants from exiting [NV Energy’s] service,” said their lawyer.
With Las Vegas’ plans to likewise completely utilize alternative energy by 2017 — this includes public parks, government facilities, fire stations, etc, — the city will be the first major metropolitan to do so.
The “Sin City” is not that sinful, after all
All these steps towards a greener, more environmentally-friendly Las Vegas are motivated by the sole purpose of eliminating the bad notions about the city. “The more we can dispel the myths around Las Vegas the better destination it is, ” said MGM Resorts’ chief sustainability officer, Cindy Ortega.
What do you think of Las Vegas’ steps to go green? Do you think the PUC’s are deliberately oppressing the solar industry? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below.