In a highly anticipated, economical move that moves the city forward — technologically speaking, regarding solar energy — MGM Resorts International and Mandalay Bay executives recently stood together at the media launch to unveil the project’s Phase I and reaffirmed they are “proud partners” with New Jersey-based NRG Energy. And together, they will make the stunning rows of 20,000 shiny, solar-responsive, photovoltaic or PV panels on the hotel-casino’s expansive rooftop make sense and save dollars.
NRG Energy is a Fortune 250 company that leads the way in “driving innovation in solar and renewable power… and customer-centric energy solutions.” NRG’s news release at the outset of the project in 2013 further stated that the project is “custom designed and developed by NRG Energy subsidiary NRG Solar” and is the first commercial solar project in the U.S. for Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts, an international gaming property leader.
During the recent launch press conference, which was held Oct 28 in the rooftop Mixx Restaurant at the Delano overlooking the polished rows of solar PV panels atop Mandalay Bay’s convention center, MGM representatives expressed optimism that the approximately 20 acres of solar energy collectors will save one-fifth of the property’s annual traditional electric energy costs.
How will it affect locals and visitors? What remains to be seen is how the private sector company’s cost-cutting measures will affect the commercial and residential consumers’ mindset about solar energy as a viable, affordable, alternative resource.
One easy-to-understand benefit for residents is the reduced power load on the traditional service grid of NV Energy, the area’s electric utility company, during hotter weather, which could reduce the energy draw on the grid and lessen the risk of blackouts during high consumption periods. The less power required in any sector, the more stable the power network remains during the hottest parts of the day.
Anyone who has experienced so-called rolling brownouts can appreciate that purported advantage.
What does the expanse of solar arrays mean in terms of energy and dollars? John Chillemi, NRG senior vice president and western regional president, gave pertinent data. In addition, he shared some numbers to
put the capacity for solar expansion and environmental impact of solar conversion into perspective.
“This solar array takes up about nearly 20 acres of roof space — that’s just a huge amount. If we had our way, every square foot of roof space in Las Vegas — and everywhere else with a lot of sun — would have solar panels on it… It could be the most valuable asset [in the country],” touting the potential and adding that it is “underutilized right now,” Chillemi said.
The generated power is expected to be 6.4 megawatts. That’s enough to power about twenty percent of the electricity needs of the Mandalay Bay [property]. Twenty percent of its energy is equivalent to [the
cost of powering electricity to] about 1,000 homes. It also [helps clean] the air,” Chillemi added.
The project is estimated to displace approximately 6,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions, according to NRG experts.
“It’s about the equivalent of taking [the emissions of] 1,300 automobiles off the road,” Chillemi added.
There will be two additional megawatts of annual power generated in the second phase expansion. Chillemi and others believe that the presence of the Mandalay Bay project will spur a greater interest in solar that radiates across the country as visitors, who see the impressive array from planes or from their hotel rooms, are motivated to increase interest and action in establishing new projects elsewhere.
Renewable solar energy to replace traditional energy is not the megastars only move toward resource conservation.
“Integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations has been a key pillar in MGM Resorts’ strategic sustainability plan. Partnering with NRG to install the solar rooftop at Mandalay Bay highlights a major milestone in our efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce our consumption of the planet’s limited resources,” said MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren in an earlier statement.
At the launch event, Chris Brophy, MGM Resorts vice president – corporate sustainability stated: “This project has really been a passion project of mine. ÖMGM Resorts is committed to being [a leader] in sustainability and stewardship of the environment,” Brophy said, explaining the multiple areas of energy conservation and advanced renewable energy sources that have been implemented by the properties.
“We’ve been working in this space for a long time… looking at renewable energy, specifically, since about 2005. We worked that long to try to make something like this happen,” he added. “For us, being a leader means doing things that are both difficult, but also have a benefit to our company.”
MGM is taking corporate responsibility, whether it’s a world-class hotel-casino expansion project with sustainable green technology, referring to CityCenter “or reducing our annual electricity consumption by more than 110 million kilowatt hours a year [for the] last five years. Leadership here in the desert also means conserving water, so we’ve conserved about 2.5 billion gallons of water in the past five years. When you use less, you spend less,” Brophy continued.
“Solar energy has been difficult for us…” he said, adding that it took the “right partner” to help overcome limitations and challenges.
“This is the start of a lot more to come,” Brophy concluded. Mandalay Bay President and COO Chuck Bowling spoke about encouraging solar and other forms of energy and resource conservation.
He said that the solar energy project and other energy conscience efforts of the property are “raising the stakes for the entire community so more will step forward in the future and make this a city that really cares and believes.”
MGM may be setting the stage for broader acceptance of solar energy by private businesses and homeowners. If all goes as calculated, the savings, conservation advantages and positive PR value may have other resort corridor properties suddenly seeing solar in a new light.
“The great news is that we’re not done yet,” said Bowling, referring to the second phase of the project that calls for the enlargement of the convention center and installation of more panels over a larger rooftop.
Chillemi stated that MGM Resorts will add about “another 400,000 square feet to the [Mandalay Bay] Convention Center,” which would make it “2.1 million square feet — the fifth largest convention center
…in the United States. And guess what is going on top of it?”
The second phase is already underway and scheduled for completion in August 2015.
Nevada’s U.S. Sen. Harry Reid was introduced as “a real champion for renewable energy and a staunch supporter for solar projects [such as the Mandalay Bay rooftop installation].”
Reid echoed the key points about the massive array and expressed how “impressive” the project is in its power to move other Nevada businesses toward interest, acceptance and implementation of solar energy.
“We don’t talk enough about this,” he stated. “This is really significant.”
He pointed out the significance of reducing carbon emissions, framing it in his heartfelt desire for the future: “What it does for my grandchildren… it cleans the air.”