Solar energy in Nevada. The next Hoover Dam?

Solar energy plant in Boulder, Nev., is America's largest. President Obama compares pioneering solar energy project with Hoover Dam.

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    President Obama speaks after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility Wednesday in Boulder City, Nev. Nearly a third of the funding for the giant solar energy project came from federal tax credits.
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President Barack Obama said Nevada remains a pioneer in clean energy and drew comparisons between the Hoover Dam's hydroelectric power and a massive field of solar panels as he touted his alternative fuel plan in Boulder City on Wednesday.

Obama said critics who question the financial and environmental benefits of clean energy "need to come to Boulder City and see what I am seeing."

His speech at Boulder City's Copper Mountain Solar 1, the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in the nation, kicked off a four-state tour to defend his energy agenda amid soaring gas prices. Obama was in Nevada for roughly three hours before heading to oil and gas fields in New Mexico. He is also scheduled to visit Ohio and the site of a future oil pipeline in Oklahoma on Thursday.

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Copper Mountain Solar 1 was built with about $50 million in federal tax credits, or roughly 30 percent of the project's total cost, said company spokesman Scott Crider. It employs 10 full-time workers.

Obama briefly toured the desert field of nearly 1 million solar panels about 20 miles outside of Las Vegas before his speech.

"I don't want to break one of these," he said as he walked past a solar panel. "They look expensive."

His 16-minute speech touted his "all of the above" energy plan and criticized politicians who don't support renewable energy efforts. Obama also honored the nearby Hoover Dam, which he called a "testament to American ingenuity."

"This city has always been about the future," he said.

Obama alluded to Nevada's highest-in-the-nation unemployment rate at 12.7 percent and praised the state's focus on clean energy jobs as a path to economic recovery. Nevada ranks third in the nation for utility-scalesolar projects.

"You guys have been through a lot," he said, "but you haven't given up. You looked around at this flat, beautiful land and all this sun... and decided that Boulder City was the perfect place to generate solar power."

It was Obama's second trip to southern Nevada since late January. With its divided electorate, Nevada is an important swing state in November.

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