Las Vegas, particularly the casinos and hotels, are vast enterprises with glitzy lights, the jangly dings from slot machines, air conditioning to make the desert livable, and other uses of massive amounts of electricity. Now, it also includes a growing oasis of solar panels as Las Vegas and Nevada show they think moving to clean energy is a sure bet.

The Mandalay Bay Hotel’s Convention Center completed installation this week on the final phase of the largest solar roof project in the U.S. (The first phase of the system, developed by NRG Energy, was completed in 2014.) The entire solar array reportedly covers 28 rooftop acres.

The 26,000 photovoltaic panels sprawling atop the convention center, which is owned by MGM Resorts International, is expected to produce 8.3 MW dc of electricity, setting a new national record for rooftop energy generation. The amount generated is, according to the company’s press release, the “equivalent of taking more than 1,700 automobiles off the road” or enough power for 1,340 homes annually. The array of panels will supply 25 percent of the power for the entire Mandalay Bay Resort, Casino and Convention Center facility (which shows how much energy those sprawling hotel campuses use daily!).

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino President and COO Chuck Bowling boasted, “The expansion of our rooftop solar installation at Mandalay Bay significantly advances our resort’s commitment to being a leading sustainable destination for conferences and conventions. Utilizing energy produced from a renewable resource is a cornerstone of our comprehensive strategy of sustainable operations.” A spokesperson from NRG noted that the “array atop Mandalay Bay is stunning in its scope and functionality.”

MGM Resorts and Mandalay Bay do not own what is essentially a solar power plant on the roof. NRG will maintain ownership and responsibility for operating the installation with the resort purchasing the electricity via a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

While the new installation is notable in size, there are other large casinos building solar projects that take advantage of the plentiful sun in the area as well as cutting costs. The Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts are two that are moving to meet increased demand with cheaper, clean energy options

There is some concern that if more casinos stop pulling power from the state’s utility, NV Energy, there will be a negative impact on the grid and electricity rates for the rest of the state. Accordingly, the public utilities commission (PUC) in Nevada is walking a fine line between encouraging people use clean energy, both solar, natural gas, wind and geothermal from hot water underground. The state has even set goals to have 25 percent of its electricity coming from clean power sources by 2025.

The PUC in Nevada has set a price it expects the large casino resorts to pay as an “exit fee” if they stop using energy from Nevada’s grid. They maintain that the utility spent money on power plants, transmission lines and such with growing casino demand in mind. The Las Vegas casinos think solar is a sure bet and will fight the exit fee as possibility illegal (imagine having to pay a Detroit automaker if one buys a more fuel efficient Toyota Prius).

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

MGM Resorts International: MGM Resorts International and NRG Energy Complete the Installation of Nation’s Largest Rooftop Solar Array
Christian Science Monitor: Las Vegas goes solar: good news for some, bad for others
Solar Novus Today: NRG Energy Completes the Largest Rooftop Solar Array in US
Wired: Las Vegas Utilities Really Don’t Want the Strip to Go Solar

Photo courtesy of NRG Energy