El Paso Electric expands solar power, coal-free by 2016

El Paso Electric well-positioned for EPA’s proposed carbon standards – expands renewable generation portfolio with power from New Mexico’s largest solar facility

Texas-based El Paso Electric (EPE) (NYSE:EE) welcomed commencement of commercial operations at what is currently the largest solar power plant in New Mexico. The 50-megawatt Macho Springs project is located on a 597-acre site in Luna County, New Mexico, and will generate enough renewable energy to power more than 18,000 homes. EPE will buy the electricity generated from the plant as part of a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), and Turner Renewable Energy have joint ownership of Macho Springs, which was built and will be operated by First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR). According to EPE, Macho Springs will displace more than 40,000 metric tons of CO2 and more than 340,000 metric tons of water consumption annually in Southern New Mexico and West Texas.

"With over 300 days of sunshine every year, we are in the perfect region for solar-energy technologies, which in the long run reduce carbon emissions and provide cleaner air," EPE CEO Tom Shockley said.

EPE said it is on track to expand its solar development and eliminate its use of coal-fired power by 2016. EPE has also signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with Colorado-based Juwi Solar, which is building a 10 MW solar facility in El Paso, Texas. The new plant is slated for completion by the end of the year and will boost total solar generation to 6 percent of EPE’s dedicated generation resources.

El Paso Electric is a regional electric utility providing generation, transmission, and distribution service to approximately 395,000 retail and wholesale customers in west Texas and southern New Mexico.

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