MGM Solar Grid Downed Temporarily by Apparent Terror Attack

MGM Resorts’ sprawling solar complex in the Nevada desert (l.), which supplies most of its Las Vegas power needs, was recently attacked by a 34-year-old man from Colorado, causing a temporary outage. Police are investigating the incident as a terror attack.

Sometime in the late afternoon on Tuesday, January 3, 34-year-old Mohammed Mesmarian drove a Toyota Camry through the gate of MGM’s Mega Solar Array complex northeast of Las Vegas and set the car on fire, causing the facility to shut down temporarily.

Employees at the complex discovered the smoldering vehicle the next day, and authorities responded to the scene at approximately 11:30 a.m. January 4.

The incident is being investigated by both the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI, as it has been flagged as a potential terror attack.

According to court records, Mesmarian, who is a dentist in Colorado, was eventually arrested January 5 in a motorhome in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area not far from Boulder Beach Campground. Records did not indicate how he made it to the campground from the solar compound.

His arrest report did say, however, that he proclaimed to officers that the attack was intended to send a message about the adoption of clean energy. The report quoted Mesmarian as saying that “ he did it for the big message, larger picture, greater good.”

Mesmarian faces numerous felony charges, including two counts of both arson and destruction of property, escape by a prisoner and committing acts of terrorism. He is expected to undergo competency exams to establish whether or not he is fit to stand trial.

The complex is owned and operated by Invenergy, which is based in Chicago and oversees a total of 49 solar complexes across the U.S. The company sent the following statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“Following an incident at the Mega Solar Array facility, on-site personnel immediately notified authorities and shut down the plant’s operations as a precaution in accordance with industry-standard safety protocols. No one was injured, and the facility is expected to be fully operational this week.”

The monetary value of the damages have not yet been released.

The complex, which features over 300,000 panels and spans more than 600 acres, produces some 90 percent of the daytime power for MGM’s 13 Las Vegas properties. It is considered to be the largest direct renewable energy source in the hospitality industry worldwide.

MGM did not comment on the attack, and did not say how it managed to supplement the lost power during the outage.

Attacks on power grids have spiked across the country in recent months, and in a bulletin from November, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that the country “remains in a heightened threat environment.”

On Christmas Day, four stations were attacked in Washington state, causing outages for 14,000 residents. North Carolina has reported multiple incidents since the beginning of November, with some resulting from vandalism and others from inclement weather.