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Las Vegas Strip Going Solar?

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The Las Vegas Strip invokes a lot of thoughts of bright lights, busy traffic, and amazing attractions. But one thing it probably doesn’t bring to mind is energy efficiency. But with all the sun the American southwest gets, why not harness a resource that’s just there for the taking? Indeed, Las Vegas is doubling down on energy efficiency, with the city government recently making the promise to go fully renewable by 2017. While you can’t expect all the casinos and hotels to go fully solar just yet, the city is taking some clear steps toward a self-sustained energy future, though not without facing some hurdles.

MGM, Leading the Way for Solar on the Strip

One of the biggest pushes for solar energy on the Strip comes from one of its biggest names. Just a few years ago, MGM Resorts built one of the world’s largest rooftop solar arrays. At 20 acres, and consisting of 21 thousand solar panels, the array is capable of harnessing enough power to run a fifth of the hotel. Of note, however, is that MGM doesn’t technically own the solar power strips on its roofs. They’re in fact owned and operated by NRG Energy, from which MGM buys the electricity. After all, MGM Resorts is in the hospitality business, not the sustainable energy business.

Solar-Powered Street Lights for the Everyday Citizen

Here’s an example of solar being used on the strip that will harder to miss. Vegas is teaming up with EnGoPlanet, a renewable energy product manufacturer based in New York, to install solar-kinetic LED street lights that power themselves. Rather than pull energy from an outside source to power out-of-date and inefficient streetlamps, EnGoPlanet’s lights look like they come straight from the future, and they get their energy from both embedded solar panels and the kinetic power of people walking near them. Not only that, but they also have capabilities of providing Wi-Fi and charging docks for passersby. Environmentally friendly and convenient!

Pushbacks from the Established Industries

While these pushes toward renewable energy, and solar power specifically, are a boon to both the environment and consumers, things aren’t so simple. Take, for instance, the fates of the already-established energy industries. Naturally, the big utility companies, facing competition, can see solar as a threat to the old ways of life. As this article from Wired points out, the leaps and changes in energy technology aren’t just limited to solar – everything is connected. And everyone is going to want a piece of the pie. What seems like a simple step toward the future could get caught up in regulations and bureaucracy, slowing the transition down.
Despite these tricky dilemmas, it’s hard to deny the benefits of solar power. It’s cheap, it’s plentiful, and it’s good for the environment. While you might not be able to expect the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign be powered by the sun quite yet, the decisions being made in the private energy sector and in City Hall point to a bright future for solar power.

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