First Solar begins construction on Macho Springs project

El Paso Electric Power (NYSE: EE), The New Mexico State Land Office and First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) said July 1 that construction has started on what will be the state’s largest solar power plant, located on State Trust Land near Deming in Luna County.

While in construction, the Macho Springs Solar Project will provide approximately 300 jobs. Construction is expected to be completed by May 2014, and the active power plant will include three operational and maintenance jobs.

“This is a milestone for not only El Paso Electric, but our customers and this region,” said Tom Shockley, El Paso Electric CEO. “We look forward to the continued growth of this technology in a cost effective manner.”

“This solar power project will provide clean, efficient solar power for use by New Mexicans,” said New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell. “Also, it benefits the local and regional economy include millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic benefits, and about 300 temporary construction jobs, while at the same time earning money for our public schools, universities, special schools, and hospitals.”

Under a 20-year power purchase agreement between El Paso Electric and First Solar, the 50-MW (ac) project will generate enough clean energy to power more than 18,000 average customer homes in the El Paso Electric service territory.

“First Solar values the support and leadership provided by El Paso Electric and the New Mexico State Land Office for this project,” said Michael Hatfield, First Solar Director of Project Development. “The Macho Springs Solar Plant will be an exciting addition to the region’s renewable energy resources.”

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. First Solar also has an interconnection agreement with El Paso Electric.

El Paso Electric is a regional electric utility providing generation, transmission and distribution service to more than 390,000 retail and wholesale customers in a 10,000 square mile area of the Rio Grande valley in west Texas and southern New Mexico. El Paso Electric has a net dedicated generating capability of 1,885 MW.

First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems which use its advanced module and system technology.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.