Reid’s clean energy push boosted with official welcoming of solar panel firm to Las Vegas

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, Rep. Joe Heck and Gov. Brian Sandoval, right, gather around Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as he greets SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive after cutting the ribbon to open the Las Vegas office of SolarCity at Town Square, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.

National Clean Energy Summit 6.0

Actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks during the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 at the Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Fresh from his National Clean Energy Summit on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had another green date today, cutting the ribbon to open solar panel developer SolarCity’s new Las Vegas office.

Reid and Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose economic development team courted the San Mateo, Calif., company to establish a Nevada operation and shepherded it through the state’s tax incentives process, welcomed SolarCity’s first 138 Nevada employees at the event.

Many of the new employees are Bay Area transplants, but the company promises hundreds of local construction jobs on the horizon as soon as the Nevada Public Utilities Commission delivers regulations on the broad-scale installation of solar panels on residences and businesses.

State officials expect the regulations process to take several months with publication by the second quarter of 2014.

“It’s really important that the way it gets implemented allows for rooftop solar panel installations,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive.

Centralized solar power generation, as opposed to rooftop panels linked into the grid, generally is favored by utility companies for competitive reasons. The first workshop meeting on Nevada’s regulations is Aug. 29.

“But once rooftop installations happen, the market will boom,” Rive said.

Sandoval said the installation of rooftop solar systems would boost Southern Nevada’s construction industry.

“It’s continuous construction,” Sandoval said. “It’s not one big project and we’re done. It’s small rooftop jobs that will require hiring electricians and roofers.”

SolarCity already is partnering with homebuilder Shea Homes to build more than 100 solar projects in Nevada housing communities.

SolarCity currently has a back-of-the-house team of sales representatives serving 14 states from the Town Square office formerly occupied by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, which subleased the 28,000 square feet.

Reid’s contribution to the solar energy collaboration was his support of 2008 legislation to extend federal tax credits for residential and commercial solar installations.

Speaking at the ribbon-cutting, Reid said he “can’t wait for Nevada to become a fantastic solar state” and energy independent. Because Southern Nevada has sunny days 85 percent of an average year, the area has explosive growth potential for solar energy.

Rive predicted SolarCity’s Nevada operation could become the company’s largest. He said that once the Public Utilities Commission’s regulations are approved, it would only take three to six months for the company to fill local warehouse and distribution positions and train workers on installations.

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