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Monday, August 29, 2011

$11 million per job? Is that even possible?

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Sempra Energy received $55 million in federal tax credits and state incentives to build its 48-megawatt Copper Mountain Solar Facility in Boulder City, Nevada. This is the largest facility of its kind in the country. While construction of the project required 350 people, both sources say that only 5 permanent jobs were created. That would mean each job cost taxpayers $11 million! I've never heard of a cost per job that high in all the time I've been writing about subsidies. A couple of million per job for data centers, I've heard of that. But over $10 million per job? I'm flabbergasted.

I wonder if that is even possible. How do you run a 48MW power plant with 5 people? I understand that it just sits there collecting the desert sun during the daytime. Doesn't it need 24-hour security? Doesn't it need maintenance from time to time? Couldn't some of the 775,000 solar panels suffer damage sometime? Even a few more jobs would quickly lower the per-job cost.

Consider this a plea for help. The energy industry is not my specialty. So, if anyone knows more about solar plants, or Nevada, or especially this project, please let me know what a reasonable level of employment would be, either in the comments of by email. Thanks in advance.

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