GHG Emissions, Commercial, Solar - September 15, 2023 - By Better Buildings, U.S. Department of Energy
MGM Resorts’ 100-Megawatt Solar Array: Climate Action Through Solar Farming
MGM Resorts International (MGM Resorts) made significant headway on its emissions-based goals by installing a 100-megawatt (MW) solar array, referred to as the “MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array.” When comparing calendar year 2019 (baseline year) to calendar year 2022, the MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array significantly contributed to a 41% emissions reduction, in Scope 1 and 2, for the 13 Las Vegas properties it services. The MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array has further potential to produce up to 100% of the daytime energy needs for its Las Vegas properties, spanning 65 million square feet of building space and more than 36,000 hotel rooms. In total, solar energy produced from the MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array provides approximately 40% of total energy use (day and night) for MGM Resorts in Las Vegas.
MGM Resorts also joined the DOE’s Better Climate Challenge in early 2021 and has established a goal to reduce their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50%, by 2030, from a 2019 baseline year. With the additional goals listed below, the MGM Resorts’ Mega Solar Array and other initiatives are key enablers of their targets to:
- Reduce energy use intensity by 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030 (another goal within the Better Climate Challenge)
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions per square foot by 45% by 2025 and 30% by 2030
- Source 100% renewable electricity in the U.S. (and 80% globally) by 2030
- Reduce absolute emissions by 30% by 2030 across significant Scope 3 categories (including Fuel and Energy Related Activities (FERA))
The MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array, located about 30 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada, came online in May 2021 and features 323,000 individual solar panels across 640 acres of land. The array generates up to 300,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity annually, which is approximately 40% of MGM Resorts’ current electricity use (day and night) in Las Vegas. That’s enough electricity to power more than 25,000 homes’ electricity annually.
As shown in Figure 2 below, MGM Resorts' Las Vegas portfolio has so far achieved a 41% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions, when comparing calendar year 2019 (baseline year) to calendar year 2022. This achieved reduction also equates to ~230,000 MT CO2e of avoided emissions, which is equivalent to more than 250 million pounds of coal burned. As MGM Resorts nears their 50% emissions reduction target, they will have avoided 287,500 MT CO2e.
MGM Resorts has also undertaken the following efficiency and decarbonization measures, further complementing their emissions reduction noted in Figure 2.
- Replaced approximately 1.5 million lights with energy-efficient LEDs
- Integrated smart buildings controls to automate energy systems
- Implemented efficient HVAC systems, such as:
- Ventilation control and other heat recovery measures to reduce heat loss
- HVAC zoning to optimize efficiency while meeting varying requirements
- Central plant upgrades to drive more efficient heating and cooling operations
- Chiller replacement program
- Conducted preventative maintenance and energy audits, and utilized energy analytics and fault detection and diagnostics systems
In total, there have been 231 projects dedicated in whole or substantially to energy conservation between 2007 and 2022. The total investment of these 231 projects is approximately $112 million and total cumulative energy savings have been 3.7 million MWh.
The MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array, developed in partnership with a renewable energy project developer, is located in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in northern Clark County, Nevada, which is one of 19 zones designated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the southwest region. Solar energy zones are areas identified as well-suited for utility-scale production of solar energy based on factors including the proximity and accessibility to transmission service and the presence of sensitive, threatened or endangered species, and the direct and indirect impacts on habitat, among others.
MGM Resorts became the sole benefactor of the electricity produced by the solar panels after purchasing the power through a utility-scale Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The solar power generated at the MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array feeds directly into the local southern Nevada grid and 100% of it is scheduled exclusively for use by MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas. This coincides with MGM Resorts’ decision in 2016 to transition from fully bundled to distribution-only service with the local utility, NV Energy. MGM Resorts took this action despite Nevada being a regulated electricity market and paid a separation impact fee of more than $86 million to control its own electricity generation and more rapidly source renewable energy.
The implementation of the MGM Mega Solar Array has resulted in several other benefits:
- Transition to Low Carbon Economy: The MGM Mega Solar Array represents substantial progress toward the organization’s renewable electricity and GHG emissions reduction goals. These goals require significant new investments in energy efficiency and renewable electricity by MGM Resorts.
- Energy Independence: In 2016, MGM Resorts decided to transition to distribution-only service from its local utility grid to ensure control of their energy future and accelerate the use of renewable power. This independence has also allowed MGM Resorts to hedge against inflationary conditions affecting energy prices and advance its business objectives for its energy future by being smarter in energy management.
- Internal Focus on Climate Solutions: MGM Resorts has made it an organizational focus to address climate-related issues and ensure they have a discernible positive impact in the communities in which it resides. They have a Board committee dedicated to Social Impact & Sustainability strategy, known as the Board of Directors Committee for Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability (CSR&S). Led by a global expert in clean energy advocacy, Rose McKinney-James, the committee is specifically responsible for guiding the company’s decisions related to social impact and environmental sustainability policies and management of related risks. The CSR&S committee was also involved in the decision-making process for implementing the MGM Resorts Mega Solar Array. The Board’s decision to implement the array has strengthened its impact and reputation throughout the company and places social responsibility at the forefront of MGM Resorts’ overall business initiatives.
This column originally appeared as a blog on the Better Buildings website.
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