LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Construction has begun on a $1 billion solar power generating station in the Mojave Desert that officials say will produce enough electricity to power about 80,000 California homes when it is completed in 2016.

The 250-megawatt project, dubbed Silver State South, will capture solar energy with panels spread across almost 4 square miles of federal land south of Las Vegas, according to a fact sheet obtained Friday from a First Solar Inc. representative.

Executives with Arizona-based First Solar and Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources put the cost of the project at $1 billion during a Wednesday ceremony with federal Bureau of Land Management chief Neil Kornze at the site off Interstate 15 near the Nevada-California state line.

Kornze said in a statement Friday that since 2009, the Bureau of Land Management has approved more than 50 renewable energy projects around the country.

“The Silver State South Solar Project is another step forward in using clean and abundant energy resources to make energy and create good-paying jobs,” he said.

When completed, it would be the same size as the largest solar project in the state, a 250-megawatt plant that First Solar is building on Moapa Paiute tribal land along I-15 north of Las Vegas. That project broke ground in March.

First Solar is building the Silver State South array adjacent to a 50-megawatt Silver State North project the company completed in 2012 on almost 1 square mile of federal land near Primm.

Silver State North, owned by Canada-based Enbridge Inc., was the nation’s first large-scale solar power plant built on public land. It sells power to NV Energy for use in the Las Vegas area.

Silver State South will be owned by a subsidiary of NextEra, and will provide power to Southern California Edison under a long-term contract.

“Renewable energy sources such as solar power play an important role in the future energy mix in this country,” Armando Pimentel, NextEra president and CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with First Solar and Southern California Edison to make this project a reality.”

Several more solar power projects have been proposed in southern Nevada, where arrays are also under construction in the Eldorado Valley south of Boulder City and outside the Nye County seat of Tonopah.