Renewable generation is now powering up nearly nine-tenths of all government operations in Albuquerque, following the inauguration of a new, 50-megawatt solar array at the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Mayor Tim Keller joined with public officials from Deming and Silver City, and from Santa Fe and Grant counties, to celebrate the plant’s opening on Earth Day last Friday. All five local governments helped fund the project – along with Deming Public Schools, Western New Mexico University and Walmart – through a first-of-its-kind public-private collaboration with Public Service Company of New Mexico.
Under that partnership, dubbed the PNM Solar Direct program, the utility will distribute all electricity generated among the participating entities, helping them achieve renewable goals while lowering their long-term power costs.
For Albuquerque, the newly inaugurated plant – combined with other rooftop solar systems built by the city in recent years – is now supplying 88% of government electricity, Keller said during last Friday’s celebration at La Fonda hotel in Santa Fe.
“It’s a landmark, transformational project for the city,” Keller said. “It makes us the fourth most-solar government of any city in the country.”
Keller set a goal of 100% renewable energy for city operations when he first took office in 2017.
That ushered in accelerated development of rooftop systems, solar-equipped parking structures, energy efficiency retrofits at city buildings, adoption of electric vehicles and construction of charging stations.
But to reach 100% renewables, the city needed a utility-scale project, Keller said. And it needed partners to pursue it, which the Direct Solar program offered.
“We needed a giant solar plant, not just rooftop systems, so we partnered with PNM and others,” Keller said. “That’s what it takes – the community coming together in a full-ranging partnership. … That’s allowed us to move much, much faster.”
The facility is located on some 500 acres at Jicarilla, which already had a transmission line connecting to PNM’s grid, lowering project costs.
There are no property taxes at Jicarilla, but the tribe will receive $1.5 million in land lease payments for hosting the plant, which is now the third-largest utility-scale solar array currently operating on tribal lands in the U.S.
Spanish energy company Repsol built the facility, marking that firm’s first solar development project in the U.S., Chief Operating Officer Federico Toro said at Friday’s celebration.
“It will supply enough electricity to power the equivalent of 16,000 homes,” Toro told event participants.
Repsol is now under contract with PNM to build a second 50-MW solar array with 20 MW of backup battery storage at Jicarilla. The company broke ground in mid-April on that project, which is one of four solar facilities PNM plans to replace the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station after it shuts down later this year.
Taken together, those four planned solar facilities, which are of different sizes, will provide a total of 600 MW of renewable generation, with 300 MW of backup battery storage.
Source: “50-MW Solar Array Sending Power to ABQ“