First Solar to build 23MW of solar capacity in New Mexico

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An agreement between First Solar and US regional power provider Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to construct a total of 23MW of solar power generating capacity across three sites is awaiting approval by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

The plants will be built with thin-film PV modules produced by First Solar, which will also provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for the project, having already worked extensively with PNM in recent years.

PNM opened five First Solar power plants in 2011 and around 21.5MW more in capacity is expected to be installed this year, with completion of the latest project in 2014 set to bring the total solar PV capacity brought into the state of New Mexico by First Solar to 67MW. PNM have around half a million energy customers. Up to 300 people will be employed to work at the solar plants at the peak of activity, with the plants expected to meet the annual energy needs of around 8,960 average homes in the state.

Under New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Act, investor-owned utility providers including PNM are obliged to generate at least 20% of all energy used from renewable energies by 2020. The Renewable Energy Act, issued by the Public Regulation Commission, has been controversial in some quarters due to rules which include allowing companies to charge customers for the cost of implementing renewable energy provision; and capping renewable energy spending to 3% of company revenue. Critics argue that some of the Renewable Energy Act’s rules will adversely affect the balance in use of different types of renewable energy sources. The PRC is scheduled to hold a public comment hearing in September after taking consultation from the public and industry on the policy.

A report earlier this week from the Environment America Research & Policy Centre named New Mexico among the top 12 states which lead on solar initiatives and installations, with the 12 accounting for 85% of installed capacity across the US, despite being home to only about 28% of the total population.

In a news release issued by First Solar, Dana Diller, vice president of US Business Development at the company said, “PNM and the State of New Mexico continue to make great strides in meeting their renewable energy goals, and First Solar is excited to play a significant role in that effort.”

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