First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) has been granted a power purchase agreement (PPA) from the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission, clearing the way for First Solar to begin construction on the state's largest solar power plant to be located on State Trust Land in Luna County. The PPA will provide El Paso Electric Power with 50 MW of solar energy for 25 years.
"This 50 megawatt solar power project will provide about 300 jobs during the construction phase, which is a huge boost to New Mexico's ailing construction industry, and it will provide a constant stream of revenue for our public schools, universities and hospitals," said State Land Commissioner Ray Powell. "This project will provide clean, efficient solar power to El Paso Electric service territory customers, and the lease payments could generate as much as $40 million for state land trust beneficiaries over the 40-year term of the lease."
The solar array will realize immediate and very significant water savings over gas-fired or coal-fired generating plants and will also have zero air emissions. The proposed Macho Springs solar power plant will generate enough clean energy to power more than 18,000 average New Mexico homes, which use about 669 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. The project will displace more than 40,000 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking 7,500 cars off the road, and will displace water consumption annually (more than 340,000 metric tons).
First Solar has submitted its final development plan that provides a site plan and specific mitigation plans and strategies, and is obtaining various construction permits. Once approved, construction is expected to begin in July.
"We are very pleased to support El Paso Electric's efforts to provide clean, reliable, renewable power to its customers, and contribute economic benefits and green jobs created by utility-scale solar development to Luna County," said Michael Hatfield, First Solar Director of Project Development.
Other proposed benefits of the project to the local and regional economy include millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic benefits, as well as three operations and maintenance jobs when the solar plant is completed.
"We look forward to working with First Solar on this historic and very important renewable energy project that will benefit all El Paso Electric customers and the region," said Tom Shockley, El Paso Electric Chief Executive Officer. "We're grateful the New Mexico State Land Commissioner shares our commitment to renewable energy."
El Paso Electric Company will purchase the entire output power from the Macho Springs solar power project through a purchase power agreement with First Solar. This project was secured by El Paso Electric through an all-source competitive Request for Proposal process conducted in 2011. The project will operate on a commercial lease from the State Land Office on about 500 acres of land at Macho Springs, near Deming. First Solar also has an interconnection agreement with El Paso Electric.