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Solar plant infuses new financial boom in Tonopah

Reported by: Kelsey Thomas
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Updated: 4/30/2014 10:18 am

TONOPAH (KSNV — More than a century ago, one of the biggest mining booms in Nevada took place in Tonopah. Today, the tiny town is home to a solar building boom.

The billion-dollar Crescent Dunes Project has been a shot in the arm for Tonopah's economy.

“People consider Tonopah the middle of nowhere and when you're here, people consider it the middle of everywhere because if you’re within 60 miles of here working, you have to stay in Tonopah,” said resident Michael Lach.

A population boom is bringing workers from all over the globe. The downside to this is Tonopah's housing shortage. “As you can see every RV site is filled up and every room that we have is full,” Lach said.

Lach set up what some call a "man camp" on the north edge of town. He built temporary homes for 130 people and he’s building more, but he can’t expand fast enough. “We have a waiting list of probably 40 to 50 people,” he said.

Nearly every motel in Tonopah is booked during the week. “Our restaurants are full. Our bar is full every night,” said John McCormick, the general manager of the Mizpah Hotel. The historic hotel was once a meeting spot for businessmen trading silver.

“It’s actually a very interesting marriage of the history, again you have 107-year-old hotel that came during the turn of the century, and now we are partnered up or married to solar reserve, which is the cutting edge technology of the future,” McCormick said.

The sales tax on hotel rooms usually brings in about $250,000 dollars a year. Last year, the town made $500,000 in taxes.

More than two years into the boom, Tonopah is embracing growth and the billion-dollar solar project, which pushed the tiny town to the forefront of the clean energy revolution.

“I think this project gives Tonopah greater exposure to the world to other companies looking to develop something unique,” said town manager James Eason. ”As far as, will there be offshoots around the power plant? Right now I can’t answer that. I don’t know. We only can hope.”

The solar plant is on track to open by the end of the year and it is expected to produce enough clean, renewable energy to power 75,000 homes.



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