PNM customers now served by grid-tied solar storage facility

Albuquerque, N.M., September 21, 2011 — A solar storage facility that is fully integrated into a utility's power grid is now online and helping to meet the electricity needs of PNM's customers in New Mexico.

The PNM Prosperity Energy Storage Project, located south of the Albuquerque International Sunport near Mesa Del Sol, can produce 500 kW of power and uses high-tech batteries to create firm and dispatchable energy derived from a renewable energy source. It is the first of 16 smart grid projects partially funded by stimulus monies to be fully operational.

The genesis of this project began in 2008 when PNM and the Electric Power Research Institute began planning a project to demonstrate smart grid technology in PNM's distribution system.

When the U.S. Department of Energy announced its Smart Grid Storage Demonstration Program supported by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, PNM and EPRI quickly reshaped their plans and submitted a proposal to federal officials.

In November 2009, PNM announced it was among the utilities awarded federal funds for a smart grid project, now known as the PNM Prosperity Energy Storage Project. The project features one of the largest combinations of battery storage and photovoltaic energy in the nation and involves extensive research and development of smart grid concepts with EPRI, East Penn Manufacturing Co., Northern New Mexico College, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico.

Using 2,158 solar panels, 1,280 advanced lead-acid batteries, smart grid technology and sophisticated metering and monitoring technology, the storage system can automatically smooth the output of the solar panels, making the renewable power more dependable. For example, when a cloud casts a shadow on the solar array, energy output immediately is reduced.

The battery and smart grid system work in tandem to instantaneously dispatch energy to fill the gap created by the cloud. In addition, the system can store solar power — or energy produced by other facilities connected to the PNM grid — when demand is low. During times of peak customer use, the system then can dispatch the power back into the grid to support demand.

Other New Mexico companies that had contributions to the project include Albuquerque's SCHOTT Solar, and Cameron Swinerton and Positive Energy, both based in Santa Fe.

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