Nevada solar project racks up big fines for blowing dust

November 23, 2021 GMT

BOULDER CITY, Nev. (AP) — A solar power project in the southern Nevada desert has been fined nearly $220,000 since April for failing to control dust during construction, county officials said.

Rosendin Electric has accepted fines in all but one of eight violations at its Townsite Solar Garden site off Interstate 11 in Boulder City, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Marci Henson, Clark County environment and sustainability director, said it appeared the company was putting efforts to quickly complete the 1,000-acre project ahead of complying with air quality standards.

Henson said dust particles can be unhealthy, particularly for people with existing respiratory conditions, and her department estimated up to 70 tons of excess dust has blown from the site.

She said the county is capped at issuing a fine of $10,000 per day, per incident.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm toured the site in June during a Las Vegas-area visit promoting renewable energy. The solar project is expected to produce about 200 megawatts of photovoltaic power when it becomes operational.

During a July hearing with county regulators, Amy Sue Ambrose, Rosendin environmental director, said the company spent $3 million and has six full-time employees assigned to manage dust on the challenging wedge-shaped site — a windswept dry lakebed near I-11 and State Route 173.

The company said more than 20 million gallons (76 million liters) of water was sprayed in May and June to wet the ground to try to prevent blowing dust.

“Our employees are members of this community, and we value the health and well-being of all members of the Clark County community,” the company said. “We have received fines for dust mitigation, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to control dust.”

Boulder City Mayor Kiernan McManus told the Review-Journal that most of the dust from the site was not affecting populated parts of his city, “but there were times where there was certainly an awful lot of dust.”

The mayor said he raised dust pollution concerns with project officials last summer but hadn’t heard recent complaints.