Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone’s MGM Mega Array comes online

Story by Kirsten Cannon, Public Affairs Specialist. Photos courtesy of MGM Resorts.

On June 28, BLM Nevada celebrated the MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array beginning to bring renewable energy online. The Mega Solar Array is owned and constructed by Invenergy and AEP Renewables and is within the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone on 715 acres of BLM-managed public land in the Las Vegas Field Office, 15 miles northeast of Las Vegas. 
 

MGM Mega Solar Array in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone.
MGM Mega Solar Array in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone.

With the Mega Solar Array, the hospitality industry’s largest directly sourced renewable electricity project worldwide will be generated on BLM-managed public land to produce up to 90 percent of MGM Resorts’ Las Vegas daytime power needs. Before construction began, more than 110 households and two commercial landscapers participated in the salvage of 643 cactus and yucca on the project site as part of an innovative effort to salvage native vegetation. This was a unique opportunity because harvesting cacti and yucca (including Joshua trees) from public lands is illegal unless BLM holds a sale because the plants would otherwise be destroyed.
 

Ground view of MGM Mega Solar Array with transmission lines in the background.
Ground view of MGM Mega Solar Array with transmission lines in the background.

The celebration culminated efforts on this parcel of the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone which began in June 2014 when BLM held a competitive leasing auction for six parcels, selecting three potential developers. Later that year, BLM announced the availability of Environmental Assessments for three proposed photovoltaic projects and in June 2015 announced the approval of the three solar energy projects. ​​​​​​​
 

Elected officials and organization leaders pose at the MGM Mega Solar Energy Zone event (On the right is BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby).
Elected officials and organization leaders pose at the MGM Mega Solar Energy Zone event (On the right is BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby).

First Solar was the successful bidder on three parcels, totaling 1,500 acres. Now owned by EDF Renewables and known as the Switch Solar Project, the renewable energy project has been operational since December 2017 and produces 179 MW per year. The final two parcels were successfully bid by NV Energy and construction is expected to begin in 2022. ​​​​​​​
 

Sign at Aria – one of 13 MGM Resort’s properties in Las Vegas – promoting the MGM Mega Solar Array.
Sign at Aria – one of 13 MGM Resort’s properties in Las Vegas – promoting the MGM Mega Solar Array.

The Southern Nevada District has almost 480 MW of renewable energy already online; 1,340 MW are approved but not yet constructed.  The fiscal year 2021-2023 workplan includes phase one processing of three projects totaling 1,600 MW and phase two processing of projects totaling more than 1,000 MW, including conducting competitive processes for the Dry Lake East Designated Leasing Area and the Amargosa Solar Energy Zone.