Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Solar stimulus

Every region of the country has valuable renewable energy resources that, if harvested on a small scale by individuals and communities or at utility scales like New Mexico's 30-MW solar plant could make the notion of a clean energy economy a reality in relatively short order. We risk leaving our children and grandchildren with a very diminished world if we don't exercise these options immediately.

Tri-State plans 30-MW solar plant in NM

New Mexico Business Weekly
March 24, 2009

The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has signed an agreement with First Solar Inc. to construct and operate a 30-megawatt photovoltaic power plant in northeastern New Mexico.

The plant, to be located in Colfax County between the towns of Cimarron and Springer, will include 500,000 solar panels and produce enough electricity to power some 9,000 homes. It will be the largest PV project by an electric cooperative and one of the largest such plants to date in the world, said Tri-State General Manager and Executive Vice President Ken Anderson in a news release.

“This is a significant venture for Tri-State that meets several objectives identified by our board of directors,” Anderson said. “It further diversifies our generation mix, it assists us in addressing carbon emissions and it helps meet our members’ renewable energy requirements.”

Denver-based Tri-State supplies wholesale power to 44 electric cooperatives, including 12 in New Mexico, 18 in Colorado and the rest in Wyoming and Nebraska.

The plant will be located within the service territory of Springer Electric Cooperative, but will provide energy to all of Tri-State’s customers. The power generated will help New Mexico co-ops meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which obligates them to derive at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Arizona-based First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR), which formed in 1999, will install half a million two-by-four-foot solar panels built with the company’s patented thin-film technology. First Solar will act as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor and will monitor and maintain the facility.

Tri-State has agreed to purchase electricity from the plant for a 25-year period, although financial and operational terms of the agreement remain confidential.

Construction will begin by April 2010, employing between 120 and 140 people. The plant will start providing energy in August, and become fully operational by the end of 2010.

The project drew praise from New Mexico politicians. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, said it shores up New Mexico’s reputation as a national leader in renewable energy production.

“I look forward to many more projects like this coming to fruition in New Mexico and across the country as we shift from fossil fuels to cleaner, green energy,” Bingaman said in a prepared statement. “I am especially pleased to see the electric co-ops take this major leap into renewables.”

Gov. Bill Richardson said the project demonstrates New Mexico’s determination to plow forward with renewable energy development.

“New Mexico has world-class renewable resources and a ready work force,” Richardson said.


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