El Paso Electric Says Solar Will Help It Be Coal-Free By 2016


Texas-based utility El Paso Electric Co. (EPE) says it is well positioned for the new carbon standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will be coal-free by 2016.

EPE says the completion and commercial operations of the 50 MW Macho Springs solar facility in New Mexico, along with the new 10 MW solar facility in El Paso, Texas, to be completed by the end of the year, will expand its total solar generation to 6% of its dedicated generation resources.

‘Our west Texas and southern New Mexico region has the right kind of sun for optimal solar energy production, making this region the 'goldilocks' in terms of climate, humidity and heat characteristics that allow us to expand our renewable portfolio with cost-effective technologies and reliable energy resources,’ says Tom Shockley, CEO of EPE.

EPE signed a 20-year purchase power agreement (PPA) with Macho Springs Solar LLC, owned by Southern Power and Turner Renewable Energy. The facility was built and will be operated by First Solar. In February, EPE signed a 30-year PPA with Newman Solar LLC, owned by Colorado-based juwi solar Inc., for the El Paso solar facility.

‘We continue to look for opportunities to add cost-effective solar energy technologies as the price of solar energy becomes more competitive,’ Shockley says. ‘At the time we signed our agreement with Macho Springs, it was the cheapest price of solar in the market.’

EPE says it will not participate in the operation of the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant after the plant's scheduled retirement in July 2016. EPE, which has a 7% interest in the plant, will continue to work with the 93% owners and the Navajo Nation to extend the operation of the plant beyond 2016. EPE plans to sell its stake in the plant.

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