NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., May 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, with a solar electric plant as a backdrop, spoke Wednesday of energy technology building a base for future economic growth.
"Right now, we are standing on the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere," Obama said during an event at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. "(This) base serves as a shining example of what's possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth."
More than 72,000 solar panels provide about 25 percent of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work at Nellis Air Force Base, Obama said.
"That's the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day," he said, adding that the project is expected to reduce carbon pollution by 24,000 tons a year, "the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from our roads."
Obama also offered an assessment of the first 100 days since the passage of the two-year, $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"One hundred days later, we are already seeing results," he said, noting that a report detailing progress made across the country. During the past few months, the economic stimulus package saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs in all sectors, including the energy sector.
But to help ensure that the current economic crisis doesn't occur again, "We have to lay a new foundation for prosperity -- a foundation constructed on pillars that will grow our economy and help America compete in the 21st century," including renewable energy, he said.
"So we have a choice," Obama said. "We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy."
By the end of the next two years, the Recovery Act "will have enabled a doubling of our nation's capacity to generate renewable energy by investing in projects just like the one at this Air Force base," Obama said.
He also announced the availability of funding for Recovery Act programs that will help the country reach that goal, saying more than $467 million in economic stimulus funds will go toward two U.S. geothermal and solar technology projects. The solar energy program will be modeled after the Nellis operation, he said.
"In this instance," Obama said, "what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas."