Solar project3

Today Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed an agreement to purchase enough solar energy from Nevada’s Moapa Band of Paiutes to power 105,000 Los Angeles homes. (That’s him at the podium above making the announcement in front of a new array of solar panels at Occidental College).

This ground-breaking agreement is great news for everyone involved. From the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who are building the solar farm on their land; to the residents of Los Angeles, who will reap the benefits of cleaner electricity; to all Americans demanding a transition to clean energy; we salute the effective grassroots organizing by local citizens and strong leadership from city officials that brought this project to fruition.

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The agreement also enjoys support from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, the Los Angeles Business Council, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The Sierra Club has worked with allied environmental and community groups over recent months and years to galvanize public support for this transition to clean energy, as part of our My Generation campaign, and we also have a close partnership with the Moapa.
Solar project

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If the Moapa Band of Paiutes sounds familiar to you, I’ve talked about them in my columns before. Replacing coal with renewable energy is a matter of life or death for them. The Nevada tribe is located near the filthy Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant, which pollutes their air and water. These families are suffering from high levels of asthma, heart conditions, and even cancer.

They are also featured in the recent Sierra magazine profile “Cost of Coal.”

Over the past year, it has been inspiring to watch Los Angeles emerge as a catalyst for clean energy change in the Southwest. They city has been getting nearly 40% of its power from two aging out-of-state coal plants – the Navajo Generating Station  in Arizona and the Intermountain Power Project  in Utah.

This Moapa Solar project is one of two long-term solar purchasing agreements that, along with the CLEAN LA Feed-in-Tariff solar program, are designed to replace power from Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station coal plant and put Los Angeles on a firm path to replace its use of coal with clean energy alternatives – energy efficiency, solar, wind, and geothermal.

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LA’s Department of Water and Power, working under Mayor Villaraigosa’s directives to get Los Angeles off of coal by 2020, recently received funding approval by the City Council to put into place key components of the city’s clean energy transition. It included $260 million to double the budget for energy efficiency, funding to expand the CLEAN LA program that will create local jobs installing solar panels, and money to replace the city’s 21% share in the Navajo Generating Station coal plant local solar, efficiency, and other clean energy alternatives by 2015.

These moves by Los Angeles city officials are part of a national market trend to transition away from coal. Coal is too much of an economic liability: public health costs, fines, legal issues, unable to compete with clean energy alternatives, etc.

Clean energy supporters in Los Angeles look forward to a future transition away from the other coal plant it receives power from — the Intermountain Power Project plant. Mayor Villaraigosa started his term with a vision of moving beyond coal and increasing clean energy. With today’s announcement, the Mayor has taken a crucial step on clean energy, and we urge LADWP to fulfill the vision and ditch dirty coal.

Photos by Refugio Mata and LA Beyond Coal.