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Mine the sunshine, make history

Nevada is known for many things, wide open spaces and abundant sunshine among them.

With Southern Nevada averaging 294 sunny days per year, it’s no wonder that multiple solar fields are popping up on the landscape. It makes perfect sense to take advantage of a prime opportunity to generate clean, green and renewable energy.

Most of us have seen the solar panels from a distance, and even may have been blinded by them as we drove by. And most of us understand the basics of how they work. The sun shines on the panels, which absorb the ultraviolet rays and transform them into usable energy that allows us to operate appliances, lights, etc.

Tuesday’s dedication of Boulder Solar I was my first chance to get up close to the panels and get a first-hand look at how they operate.

If all the fact sheets stacked on my desk about solar power weren’t enough to convince me about the importance of renewable energy and how powerful the sun is, the pink tinge on my skin and heat radiating from it after just an hour or so near the solar panels certainly did the trick.

Leading the tour was Andrew deRussey, an engineer with Southern Power’s engineering and maintenance team.

I especially appreciated his description of how the solar panels work. Instead of all the technical jargon that generally accompanies tours such as this, he put the process in simple terms that made so much sense.

He compared the process to a tree. Each of the square modules that make up an individual solar panel were like leaves. They absorb the sun’s rays and pass them on to tiny wires, that act like veins, which connect to larger wires. Eventually the wires flow into larger underground wires with greater capacities, like roots.

Through these transitions, the power goes to an inverter and is transformed into usable energy that is transmitted to power companies and, eventually, homes and businesses.

Continuing the tree analogy, each inverter serves multiple panels, creating a forest of renewable energy sources.

It’s their oasis in the desert. However, the oasis they referring to is their power plant technology.

Each of the panels is mounted on a bar that is connected to a GPS tracking system that follows the sun as it travels from east to west each day, allowing it to maximize the amount of sunlight they absorb and power they generate.

According to deRussey, the efficiency of the system allows them to generate more solar power in less space. He said they get 10 to 15 percent more energy out of a system that tracks the sun than stationary panels.

While the panels may not be as beautiful as a tree, they are an important component of our local landscape. They provide much more than just a source of renewable energy. They provide jobs and generate income for the city through the lease of the land.

They also serve as an example of how to transform vast expanses of land that might otherwise be unusable because of their distance from water into prime real estate.

Nevada’s history is based on residents knowing how to mine the riches of their state. Our sunshine is another treasure that will surely secure our future.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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