Sunny days that are common in the desert are perfect for the solar power systems that Amonix will manufacture at its new plant in North Las Vegas by the end of the year, creating nearly 300 jobs in a city that's running 15.6 percent unemployment.
Southern Nevada is an ideal location for the concentrated photovoltaic systems made by Amonix and there's no question the region will see more development in solar technology, chief executive Brian Robertson said Tuesday during a news conference at North Las Vegas City Hall.
Amonix systems require no water in power production, make higher and better use of land and produce more energy per acre than any other solar technology, he said.
Robertson said the company looked in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico before choosing North Las Vegas, first and foremost to manage shipping costs. Demand for Amonix products comes primarily from California and Southwestern states with a desert climate, he said.
Seal Beach, Calif.-based Amonix signed a five-year lease for 214,000 square feet in the Golden Triangle industrial park in North Las Vegas, near Pecos and Craig roads. Capital investment, including equipment, construction and tenant improvements, is estimated at $15 million to $16 million, Senior Vice President Vahid Ghassemian said.
Permits are in place for construction work to begin within the next couple of weeks and the plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year, he said.
All hiring will be done locally. The company will be placing advertisements in the Las Vegas Review-Journal and online at www.amonix.com.
Most of the jobs are on the factory floor, from machine operators to engineers. Other positions include office, accounting and supply. Pay range is $12 to $14 an hour for manufacturing jobs, and $50,000 to $100,000 a year for management positions, depending upon responsibilities, Ghassemian said.
The company anticipates doing a lot of training for the manufacturing jobs and received funding from the state to provide that training, he said.
Amonix is using $5.9 million of federal funding from the Recovery Act's Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to build the North Las Vegas plant. It will have annual production capacity of 150 megawatts, roughly equivalent to NV Energy's interest in the coal-powered Mojave Generating Station that was shut down for environmental reasons, Robertson said.
"Demand for solar energy is terrific," he said. "A lot of the Recovery Act money has helped companies like ours keep solar manufacturing at home."
Nevada Development Authority Vice President Chris Zunis estimated overall economic impact of $608 million from the Amonix plant, including $118 million in annual payroll, $10 million in local tax revenue and $2.5 million in state tax revenue.
"We have a great scenario for companies that not only produce solar power, but manufacture solar components," Zunis said. "We have available labor, a skilled and educated work force, which is a big selling point."
North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck said the City Council has made it a priority to bring long-term, sustainable jobs to one of the recession's hardest-hit cities. North Las Vegas is "open for business" with plenty of open space available for development, she said.
Amonix, established in 1989, raised $129 million in private funding in April from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, and $25 million prior to that from Goldman Sachs and MissionPoint Capital. The company also received a $15.6 million grant from the Department of Energy Solar American Initiative.
Robertson said more lenders for power-plant projects are coming back to the market, which he sees as a good sign for the economy.
Amonix has installed utility-scale solar systems at the Center for Energy Research at University of Nevada, Las Vegas; the River Mountains water treatment plant in Henderson; and NV Energy's Clark Generation Station.