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Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ Renewable Energy Efforts

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When plans for solar powering the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign were introduced this summer, the biggest question, and point of contention, from critics was, “What’s with the solar trees?”

The “trees”—solar panels mounted on poles, hovering over the Historic Landmark—seemed a slight misrepresentation, given that they wouldn’t actually light the sign directly. Instead, the panels would feed energy into the grid in exchange for credits (meaning that the panels could pretty much be placed out of site or the energy could just be purchased on the open market, without the panels).

But that would defeat the purpose of the panels, which is to market Nevada as a progressive state when it comes to renewable energy, says Rick Van Diepen, executive director of Green Chips. Van Diepen says that the public/private nonprofit group, dedicated to environmental sustainability had been looking at ways to promote Nevada’s renewable energy efforts in place, and that the famous sign was a perfect platform.

Problem is, critics argued that the trees (there to get noticed) marred views of the Strip in photo ops. So Tuesday, after being presented with a new plan that placed the trees farther from the sign, the County Commission green-lighted the effort, a $150,000 project funded by donated money.

The new plan has the three solar trees set next to the walkway that leads to the sign from the parking lot, along with educational information about environmental sustainability projects in Nevada. In addition to $50,000 in seed money from the Consumer Electronics Association, the Las Vegas Centennial History Grant Program and NV Energy each contributed $25,000. The rest, Van Diepen says, comes from in-kind donations.

The project, a collaboration between Green Chips and Clean Energy Project, is expected to be completed by the first of the year.

Relocating the placement of the solar trees, he says, was a little disappointing but acknowledges that tourists come to see the famous landmark—not a statement about Nevada’s renewable energy efforts.

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